Chronicles of Inferno: Japan's Art Theater Guild

2/7/13 to 2/27/13

In 1967, Japan's Art Theater Guild (or ATG) began producing experimental and highly controversial independent films that challenged not only postwar Japanese society, but cinema itself. Our tribute includes films made for ATG by New Wave icons like Shohei Imamura, Nagisa Oshima, and Masahiro Shinoda; genre masters such as Kihachi Okamoto; veterans of independent cinema like Kaneto Shindo; the neglected Susumu Hani; and more extremist firebrands like Toshio Matsumoto, Shuji Terayama, and Koji Wakamatsu.

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Past Films

  • A Man Vanishes

    • Wednesday, February 27 7 pm

    (Ningen jōhatsu). Shohei Imamura (Japan, 1967). What began as a documentary on johatsu, the phenomenon of people going missing in overcrowded Japan, became a brilliant film years ahead of its time in its blurring of fact and fiction, “a coup de cinéma equaled only by Kiarostami's Close-Up”(TIFF Cinematheque). (125 mins)

  • Shura

    • Sunday, February 24 2 pm

    Toshio Matsumoto (Japan, 1971). Experimental filmmaker Toshio Matsumoto (Funeral Parade of Roses) destabilizes the samurai film with this stately, pitch-black tale of a ronin distracted from duty by a scheming courtesan, and his later vengeance. A Borgesian satire in the guise of samurai horror. (134 mins)

  • Human Bullet

    • Saturday, February 23 8:30 pm

    (Nikudan). Kihachi Okamoto (Japan, 1968). A reluctant kamikaze at the tail end of WWII enjoys his last day on earth-or tries to-in this disorienting, savage antiwar satire, reminiscent of Sam Fuller by way of Hunter S. Thompson. From the director of Sword of Doom. (116 mins)

  • The Ceremony

    • Saturday, February 16 6 pm

    (Gishiki). Nagisa Oshima (Japan, 1971). Oshima's audacious family saga is nothing less than the history of the postwar Japanese state. “Makes contemporary cinema look puny by comparison, so dense and complex its achievement”(TIFF Cinematheque). (122 mins)

  • Double Suicide

    • Friday, February 15 7 pm

    (Shinju ten no Amijima). Masahiro Shinoda (Japan, 1969). Shinoda's “remix” of a classic Japanese bunraku puppet play finds live actors, puppets, and their handlers all part of the action, heightened by a Brechtian divide between “story” and “telling” and a jarring score by Toru Takemitsu. Starring Kichiemon Nakamura and Shima Iwashita. (100 mins)

  • Pastoral: Hide and Seek

    • Thursday, February 14 7 pm

    (Den'en ni shisu). Shuji Terayama (Japan, 1974). Introduced by Miryam Sas. Welcome to the color-filtered, cross-dressing, orgiastic, surrealist realms of Pastoral, which reimagines a director's childhood through a screen of pastel colors, group sex, and looming adults. One of the key underground films of the 1970s, from the same planet of Kuchar, Jodorowsky, and early John Waters. (102 mins)

  • Children Who Draw

    • Sunday, February 10 3 pm

    (E o kaku kodomotachi). Susumu Hani (Japan, 1956). Susumu Hani in person. Introduced by Julian Ross. Hani's innovative documentary looks at children who draw, and one boy in particular, who doesn't draw well at all. The film observes the minutiae of a child's daily world, where every moment encompasses a lifetime of emotion. With the companion film Children in a Classroom (1955). (68 mins). UPDATE: Mr. Hani regrets that he is unable to visit the Bay Area as planned.

  • The Inferno of First Love

    • Sunday, February 10 5 pm

    (Hatsukoi jigokuhen). Susumu Hani (Japan, 1968). Susumu Hani and Kimiko Nukamura in person. Introduced by Miryam Sas. A girl and a boy weave through Tokyo's nightclub/counterculture district in this portrait of a Japan on the crux of worlds old and new. Boasting Hani's documentary film techniques and an experimental, wildly kinky script by underground provocateur Shuji Terayama. (107 mins). UPDATE: Susumu Hani and Kimiko Nukamura regret that they must cancel their Bay Area visit.

  • She and He

    • Saturday, February 9 8 pm

    (Kanojo to kare). Susumu Hani (Japan, 1963). Susumu Hani in person. Introduced by Roland Domenig. A housewife slowly becomes alienated from the world around her in Hani's elliptical masterpiece, compared on release to the best of Antonioni. Starring Sachiko Hidari and Eiji Okada (Hiroshima, Mon Amour). (111 mins). UPDATE: Mr. Hani regrets that he is unable to visit the Bay Area as planned.

  • Ecstasy of the Angels

    • Friday, February 8 7 pm

    (Tenshi no kōkotsu). Koji Wakamatsu (Japan, 1972). Introduced by Go Hirasawa. An extreme-left militant group finds itself consumed by paranoia in Koji Wakamatsu's notorious cocktail of politics, porn, and protest, one of the most infamous films of the Japanese (or any) New Wave. Written by Masao Adachi. (89 mins)

  • Silence Has No Wings

    • Thursday, February 7 7 pm

    (Tobenai chinmoku). Kazuo Kuroki (Japan, 1966). Introduced by Roland Domenig. This dazzling blend of documentary realism and poetic abstraction recreates a “butterfly's journey” (embodied by Mariko Kaga) across postwar Japan. “A film of sympathetic irrationality . . . fascinating in its strangeness”(Positif). (100 mins)