See Some Movies by Nagisa Oshima While You Have a Chance To

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10/02/2008 9:00 AM |

Yes that’s David Bowie buried up to his neck, we’ll get to that.

Somewhat overshadowed by the New York Film Festival is the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s sidebar series, the debut of a near-comprehensive traveling retrospective, organized by the Cinematheque Ontario, on the films of the Japanese director Nagisa Oshima. Widely and wildly varied over the course of forty-odd years of moviemaking, Oshima’s films are stylistically boundary-breaking to the point of formal violence, and politically he’s a left-winger who arrived on the scene, in the late 50s, already disillusioned with left-wing movements. Which isn’t to say that his movies aren’t fun (unless you don’t find Godard or Buñuel fun) (in which case you really need to rent Pierrot le fou and Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie posthaste).

Very many of his films are unavailable here, a situation which this series will hopefully rectify. But in the meantime, through the 14th, there’s a lot of worthy (and bizarre) stuff up there — and a gratifyingly large amount of good writing been done on the subject.

Begin with Tony Rayns’s introduction in the current Film Comment (the FSLC’s house organ); and continue on to Jonathan Rosenbaum’s more insider-y analysis in ArtForum. Moving Image Source has three quarters of its planned four-article series up so far; in the current Voice, Aaron Hillis offers a user-friendly rundown of five of Oshima’s more known movies.

I’ve rhapsodized Boy in this space before, and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is an intensely detached drama of martial idiocy and repressed homosexuality, co-starring, yes, David Bowie, as a Pacific Theater prison-of-war. The dramatically jigsawed and visually seamless Night and Fog in Japan has come and gone, but along with much of the director’s early, New Wave-y drama it’s available at Kim’s. Really, look into him.