Life Is Short: Nikkatsu Studios at 100

9/1/12 to 10/27/12

Join us to celebrate the centenary of Japan's venerated Nikkatsu studios, “just maybe the coolest film production house of all time” (Chuck Stephens, Criterion). Our series covers nearly every Nikkatsu decade and includes a 1921 samurai work, Japan's first sound film, a 1939 musical, fifties melodramas, an international art-house hit, and sixties action films from filmmaking legends such as Daisuke Ito, Kenji Mizoguchi, Masahiro Makino, Kon Ichikawa, and Seijun Suzuki.

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Past Films

  • Elegy to Violence

    • Saturday, October 27 8:10 pm

    Seijun Suzuki (Japan, 1966). A high-school student and militant ideologue is torn between violence and his love for a Catholic girl in Suzuki's scathing portrait of militarism, filmed with typical high style and humor. (86 mins)

  • The Young Rebel

    • Thursday, October 25 7 pm

    Seijun Suzuki (Japan, 1963). A young tough with a florid heart and swinging fists enters adulthood-and encounters both love and fascism-in Suzuki's wild film, a Taisho-set equivalent to Rebel Without a Cause. (95 mins)

  • Gate of Flesh

    • Friday, October 19 8:40 pm

    Seijun Suzuki (Japan, 1964) New 35mm Print! A gang of prostitutes and a perpetually shirtless thug (Jo Shishido) survive in the sewers of Occupied Japan in this color-filled, cheerfully nihilistic thumb-in-the-eye to both good taste and motion picture censors. “A classic of the Nikkatsu subgenre known as roman porno” (James Quandt, Cinematheque Ontario). (90 mins)

  • Harp of Burma

    • Sunday, October 14 4 pm

    Kon Ichikawa (Japan, 1956). A lyrical, haunting requiem for the victims of war, set amid the giant Buddhas of Burma. Winner of the top prize at the Venice film festival and one of Ichikawa's most famous films. (116 mins)

  • Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate

    • Sunday, September 30 5 pm

    Yuzo Kawashima (Japan, 1957). Named the fifth best Japanese film of all time in a 2009 Kinema Jumpo poll, Kawashima's Edo-set comedy follows a fast-talking deadbeat (Frankie Sakai) as he works his way into-but not out of-an intrigue-filled brothel. Cowritten by Shohei Imamura, Kawashima's longtime assistant director. (110 mins)

  • Made to Order Cloth

    • Sunday, September 23 5 pm

  • Singing Lovebirds

    • Saturday, September 22 6:30 pm

    Masahiro Makino (Japan, 1939). One of the real discoveries of the Nikkatsu retrospective, this jazz-influenced, light-hearted romantic musical offers up many pleasures, including longtime Kurosawa veteran Takashi Shimura crooning out several numbers. Sweet and pretty Oharu helps her father make umbrellas, but her heart truly swoons for a kindly ronin. (69 mins)

  • Rusty Knife

    • Saturday, September 22 8 pm

    Toshio Masuda (Japan, 1958). New 35mm Print! Nikkatsu's two biggest stars, Yujiro Ishihara and Akira Kobayashi, teamed up for the first time in this noir about two former hoods trying to go straight. Director Masuda strips the narrative-and the sets-down to bare necessities, and turns Rusty Knife into a lean, hardboiled vision of postwar Japan. (90 mins)

  • Hometown

    • Saturday, September 15 6:30 pm

    Kenji Mizoguchi (Japan, 1930). Hometown is not only the great Kenji Mizoguchi's first sound film, it's also one of the first sound films ever made in Japan, produced by Nikkatsu as a test in 1929. The popular classical-music tenor Yoshie Fujiwara plays a singer who returns from a trip abroad. (86 mins)

  • Season of the Sun

    • Saturday, September 8 6:30 pm

    Takumi Furukawa (Japan, 1956) New 35mm Print! Two bored, aimless teens find “love” (or at least sex) amidst the night clubs and yacht-filled beaches of an emotionless Japan unlike any their parents had seen. The film that launched the infamous youth-focused “sun tribe” genre, and defined a new generation. (89 mins)

  • The Warped Ones

    • Friday, September 7 8:40 pm

  • Capricious Young Man

    • Friday, September 7 7 pm

    Mansaku Itami (Japan, 1936). A not-so-heroic samurai, more everyman than Superman, is tasked with defeating a clueless lord's scheming retainers in this jovial, warmly humanist work from Itami, a key figure in prewar Japanese cinema (and the father of Juzo Itami). (77 mins)

  • Suzaki Paradise: Red Light District

    • Saturday, September 1 6:30 pm

    Yuzo Kawashima (Japan, 1956). A down-on-their-luck young couple settle on the edge of the red-light district in this major rediscovery of the Nikkatsu series, a “radiant masterwork of Japanese cinematic melodramas” (Tokyo Filmex) compared to Naruse and Mizoguchi. (81 mins)

  • A Colt Is My Passport

    • Saturday, September 1 8:15 pm

    Takashi Nomura (Japan, 1967) New 35mm print! One man, one plan, and a thousand bullets: a swaggering Jo Shishido takes on the mob with effortless cool in this tough-as-nails noir, fueled by American crime thrillers, French existentialism, and Italian spaghetti westerns. “An existentially poetic actioner worthy of Howard Hawks or Sergio Leone” (Sydney Film Festival). (84 mins)