Essential Cinema: A Fortnight of Nagisa Oshima, at BAM

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04/01/2009 12:28 PM |

Last fall, Toronto’s Cinematheque Ontario put together a nearly comprehensive retrospective on the Japanese New Wave director Nagisa Oshima, a director most often compared to Godard for his roots in film criticism; lightning-bolt arrival in a decade (the 60s) primed for his gauntlet-tossing, politicized formal burrowing; his subsequent woolly and often inscrutable experiments; and general irascibility.

The series was an event in the best sense, sparking lots of full considerations of Oshima’s work (see Tony Rayns in Film Comment), and creating a climate of urgency and advocacy around a body of work that’s too little seen, and too little available, in this country.

Really it was all just to get us ready for the fourteen Oshima movies returning to BAM over the next fourteen days. Which is, as Hobes suggests, a necessity for your life. If you can’t make ’em all, though, may I suggest tonight’s corrosive opening night feature, the narratively accessible, tonally corrosive early slum portrait The Sun’s Burial; tomorrow night’s Night and Fog in Japan — in long takes bridging present and past tense (aided by theatrical lighting shifts), Oshima bitterly parses the factional splintering of the postwar student Left; his formal rigor seems to stand as a rejoinder to his cause’s ultimate moral and practical failure — and Sunday’s tabloid family story Boy, one of the most harrowing indictments of the nuclear family (as national character) ever put to celluloid.

Though I only mention those because they’re the ones I’ve seen.. I hope to see you there, often.

Pictured, incidentally, is Cruel Story of Youth (plays next Friday), which is actually in color. And actually features an even more ferocious bite, into an apple.