Nagisa Oshima, one of Japan's most controversial filmmakers. A filmmaker who shocked the world with his 1976 film "In the Realm of Senses" based on the true story of Sada Abe and a film that showcased unsimulated sex and faced major censorship. In fact, even with the Criterion Collection's Blu-ray and DVD release of "In the Realm of Senses", viewers today still debate if the film was art or if the film was pornography. If anything, Oshima has caught the attention of many and many have wondered if his other films would ever reach US shores.
One of the founders of the Japanese New Wave, Oshima was known for taking on Japanese taboos and creating films against the status quo, the filmmaker has been doing his style of films since 1959 and working for the studio Shochiku in order to fulfill the studio's desire of creating edgier material for the youth market. Oshima would go on to create three films which were known as "The Youth Trilogy" ("Cruel Story of Youth", "The Sun's Burial", "Night and Fog in Japan").
After politics played a part in Oshima leaving Shochiku, the filmmaker would go on to create his own company known as Sozo-sha (Creation Company) and in celebration of his work from his new studio and many fans bombarding Criterion for more Nagisa Oshima, The Criterion Collection has chosen Nagisa Oshima's mid-to-late '60s films to be part of the latest Eclipse Series Collection known as "Eclipse Series 21: Oshima's Outlaw Sixties".
The latest DVD set "Oshima's Outlaw Sixties" for Criterion Collection's Eclipse Series featuring filmmaker Nagisa Oshima's works from 1966-1968 is magnificent!
For any cineaste who is interested in the Japanese new wave but also wondering how Japan's most provocative auteur would eventually lead up to his highly controversial film "In the Realm of the Senses" can see how he progresses from film to film. Call him rebellious as he goes against the status quo, Nagisa Oshima shows us his daring side through these film films included in the Eclipse Series set.
Taking on sexual destruction, emotional conflict, nihilistic views towards Japanese youth, amorality and touching upon political situations that he saw in Japan (specifically the treatment of Koreans by Japanese) and using films as his platform. We get to Oshima engaged in situations that deal with the Japanese student movement, his feelings opposing the Vietnam War but also seeing that appreciation of Luis Bunuel, the master of surrealism influencing Oshima's style when he became liberated and avant-garde with his filmmaking.
Perhaps that is the connection of where some would call Oshima as the "Godard of the East" but as you watch each of these films, you start to see how his films showcases the cultural and political tension of postwar Japan. These films were the stepping stones in which Oshima would go all out in controversy for creating films such as "In the Realm of the Senses" and "The Empire of Passion".
Each film presented in the "Eclipse Series #21: Oshima's Outlaw Sixties" is indeed fascinating and unique.
"Pleasures of the Flesh" is a film that demonstrates Nagisa Oshima's strength in showcasing a character's self-destruction and pushing the boundaries of moral turpitude. For those familiar with Japanese films during the '60s, especially from Nikkatsu or from various filmmakers at the time, may it be pink films to yakuza gangster films, these films were quite popular for the youth market.
"Violence at Noon" is a film that demonstrates Oshima's artistic side by using high contrasts but unique in that the film utilized over 2,000 cuts but easily taking on topics such as rape, those protecting a serial killer and also suicide pacts. For three topics that can be seen as dismal and dark, Oshima manages to create a film that is literally artistic and defiant all at once.
In the case of "Sing a Song of Sex", Oshima's film which came a year after Tomomi Soeda's book which studies song as an expression of discontent among the Japanese and their escape into fantasy. Possibly the most surreal film I have seen from Oshima, this is Oshima reaching to Luis Bunuel heights as surrealism and dark comedy is used effectively. It may be too surreal for others but the film's bizarre form of storytelling to start off Oshima's Korean trilogy utilizing fantasy without being to upfront was quite fascinating.
1967 was definitely an intriguing year for Oshima fans as it was a year we see a liberation as a filmmaker and "Japanese Summer: Double Suicide" can be looked at Oshima's way of critiquing Japanese in general and I can see conservatives beginning to become more invidious towards the filmmaker while others outside of Japan perhaps saw a sense of style and a unique oeuvre. This is the filmmaker engaging all various types of Japanese through its bizarre characters and its senseless violence left a blank stare for many watching the film. But this was Oshima daring to take on the Vietnam War through film.
And last, unlike the previous four films, "Three Resurrected Drunkards" brings us those political views of Oshima but presenting it in a more comedic style. Unique in presentation for the filmmaker but yet the comedy is used as a way to engage the viewer towards the treatment of Koreans in Japan and his feelings towards the Vietnam War. A surprising comedy and also another film that one can see as experimental, farcical but within the context of Oshima's style of filmmaking, it works!
Each film in "Oshima's Outlaw Sixties" showcasing elements of Oshima defying realism. But with Japanese culture, Oshima manages to take the political and make it art. This is Japanese new wave at its finest.
The Criterion Collection has managed to pick five magnificent films of Oshima, each unique and even 40-years-later, look absolutely great on DVD. Suffice to say, Oshima like Godard, like Resnais and like Bunuel, is not going to be for everyone. For those who enjoyed Oshima's "The Youth Trilogy" or his more controversial films may find these films to be too avant-garde if they are expecting something similar to the Nikkatsu '60s films. But I absolutely found this DVD set to be enjoyable, fascinating, thought provoking, artistic and just an all-out wonderful release.
Granted, it's missing one major key film in the Korean trilogy which is "Death by Hanging", which I can only hope that this film along with "The Youth Trilogy" will someday be released by Criterion.
But overall, "Oshima's Outlaw Sixties" is absolutely fantastic and a worthy addition to any cinema fan's film collection. Highly recommended!