Nagisa Oshima is the quintessential pioneer of Japanese New Wave cinema. The Shochiku Film Company in Kyoto where he worked as an assistant-director has restored in 4k the second feature film from his incandescent filmography, Cruel Story of Youth (Seishun Zankoku Monogatari). To be rediscovered this year in Cannes Classics.
Photo from the film © RR
Japan in the 1960s. The country is still trying to get back on its feet after the devastations of war. The story centres on two marginalised young people with complicated personalities: Makoto, a young woman who has quite lost her bearings and Kiyoshi, a rebellious student. A very unequal and violent relationship develops between them.
Born in 1936 in Japan, Nagisa Oshima was no stranger to scandal. From Cruel Story of Youth, which he made at the age of 28 to In the Realm of the Senses (Ai no korîda) in 1976, Oshima triggered a veritable seismic tremor amongst Japanese and international critics, and he drew the wrath of Japanese censorship. Recognised as one of the most creative directors of his generation, Nagisa Oshima had an aptitude for transgressing accepted standards that enabled him to film the unfilmable and break new ground for many filmmakers who are recognised today, such as Soshei Imamura, winner of the Palme d’or at the Festival in 1997 and 1983.
In Cruel Story of Youth, the director imprints a colour and a signature. He films a venomous chronicle about a generation of young people in free fall: bodies collide, make love, destroy each other in a conflictual and ever-violent atmosphere. Oshima's film makes bold use of red, reducing the green tones that are not vibrant enough. He creates anxiety and unsettles the spectator to force him to face up to his own thoughts. Nagisa Oshima, a subtle and always revolutionary director.
Thursday 15 May / Buñuel Theatre / 3 p.m.