One of the great pioneers of Sixties counter-cinema, Japanese director, video artist and critic Toshio Matsumoto (b. 1932) rose to prominence as a daring stylist and fearless provocateur whose radically experimental films shattered social and aesthetic taboos with inspired precision and energy. Matsumoto began as a documentary filmmaker, directing a series of abstract and subtly political shorts that applied a mode of poetic anthropology to postwar society and culture. Among Matsumoto's earliest works were two important collaborations with fellow member of the Jikken-Kobo artist collective, the legendary composer Toru Takemitsu who contributed some of his earliest scores to Matsumoto's lyrical documentaries Ginrin and Song of the Stone. An influential critic and theorist, Matsumoto increasingly embraced formal experimentation, culminating in his dazzling three projector film, For My Crushed Right Eye and his incendiary feature film debut, Funeral Parade of Roses, one of the most important films produced by the remarkable independent distribution and production company Art Theater Guild. Making prominent use of music and mandala-like formal structures, Matsumoto's deeply immersive and frequently psychedelic avant-garde films are trance inducing and quietly intense adventures in perception.
The Harvard Film Archive is thrilled to welcome one of the leading figures of Japanese experimental cinema for a special presentation of his incredible yet rarely screened films followed by a conversation with film historian and curator Go Hirasawa. – Haden Guest
Special thanks: Andrew Gordon, Ted Gilman, Stacie Matsumoto – Reischauer Institute; Go Hirasawa – Meiji-Gakuin University; Yuriko Furuhata – McGill University and Diane Wei Lewis – Harvard University. This program is co-presented with the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University.
Directed by Toshio Matsumoto
With Pîtâ, Osamu Ogasawara, Toyosaburo Uchiyama
Japan 1969, 35mm, b/w, 105 min
A carnivalesque melding of documentary verité and avant-garde psychedelia, Funeral Parade of Roses offers a shocking and ecstatic journey through the nocturnal underworld of Tokyo's Shinjuku neighborhood, following the strange misadventures of a rebellious drag queen fending off his/her rivals. Often cited as a major inspiration for Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, Matsumoto's breakthrough film is a visually audacious and lyrically abstract testament to the vertiginous daring of the postwar Japanese avant-garde art and film scenes. Matsumoto orchestrates a series of quite astonishing visual set pieces, including actual performances by the influential Fluxus-inspired street theater groups, the Zero Jigen and Genpei Akasegawa. Print from the HFA collection.
Directed by Toshio Matsumoto
Introduction by film historian and curator Go Hirasawa
All film prints courtesy the filmmaker, except Silver Wheel provided by the National Film Center, Tokyo.
Japan 1969, 16mm for three projectors, color, 13 min
Japan 1955, 35mm, b/w, 12 min
Japan 1963, 16mm, b/w, 24 min
Japan 1969, 16mm, b/w, 11 min
Japan 1975, 16mm, color, 12 min
Japan 1975, 16mm, color, 8 min