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Oshima's Outlaw Sixties (Eclipse Series)
DVD disk
05.17.2010 By: Mathew Plale
Oshima's Outlaw Sixties (Eclipse Series) order
Director:
Nagisa Oshima

Actors:


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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
From the Criterion Collection comes the Eclipse Series, "a selectiion of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics." Their 21st edition, Oshima's Outlaw Sixties, traces the career of Nagisa Oshima, "the Japanese Godard," from 1965-'68.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Pleasures of the Flesh (1965)

“You must never touch this money!”

Oshima’s tale of temptation, based on the novel “Pleasures Inside the Coffin,” finds Atsushi (Katsuo Nakamura) being blackmailed by an embezzling businessman (Shoichi Ozawa) to guard a briefcase holding 30 million yen.

Early on, Atsushi’s crime is revealed in voiceover: he murdered the man who raped a former pupil, Shoko (Mariko Kaga), who he is affectionate for. Depressed she has married another man, Atsushi plans a year of excess (i.e. offering a prostitute 1 million yen per month to live with him; 2 million yen for one lay), the end of which will mark his suicide.

Pleasures of the Flesh was Oshima’s first feature at his new studio, Sozo-sha (Creation Company), after leaving Shochiku. It’s a strong film of the period and a suiting introduction to what Oshima’s sixties would hold.



Violence at Noon (1966)

“Your husband is the High-Noon Attacker.”

Violence at Noon’s source is a true life murder spree in the late ‘50s, but curiously focuses seldom on the killer, a vulture named Eisuke (Kei Satô). Instead, much of the story concerns the history of the two women--his teacher wife (Akiko Koyama) and a maid (Saeda Kawaguchi)--who protect him from the police.

While there are some disturbing sights (a man hanging from a forest tree after a failed double suicide; a streamside of dead hogs and chickens), the film is terribly uninteresting in its approach to the subject.

Of note, the film contains over 2,000 cuts in 99 minutes (around one every three seconds), though this makes for a watch more choppy than exciting.



Sing a Song of Sex (1967)

“Bawdy songs represent the history of the people.”

So go the words of a professor (Juzo Itami), who takes a group of students--young girls and boys--out to a bar for a night of celebration, wisdom and song. The high school boys, sex-obsessed and rammy after taking their entrance exams at Tokyo University, take their teacher’s words to heart and below, singing the same tune so much throughout that Sing a Song of Sex borders on musical.

At its best, Sing a Song of Sex it’s a very colorfully photographed “youth movie” that perhaps only Oshima could spin, with rape, accidental murder and homosexual tendencies as driving devices. At worst, it’s a scriptless story of political oppression, national legacy and protests of Kenkokubi (Founder’s Day) as throwaway elements.



Japanese Summer: Double Suicide (1967)

“I’ve got a screw loose.”

This once-rare Oshima film contains some of his most fascinating characters--a young girl needing someone (anyone) to have sex with her; an older man wishing to be killed by someone (anyone); a high school boy obsessed with gangster movies--imprisoned in an underground room by a band of criminals.

What the motive is of the captors is one of the mysteries of Japanese Summer: Double Suicide. Is there a revolution being plotted? Why have these particular people been captured? And what is the connection of the Westerner’s shooting spree?

The plot, subplots and (lack of?) ideas of Japanese Summer: Double Suicide could likely lose viewers (distinguished writer Yukio Mishima didn’t quite “get it”), so don’t let the Oshima’s stamp that the film is of “television, toys and demons” inflate interest.



Three Resurrected Drunkards (1968)

“If only this were Vietnam. There are corpses all over the place there.”

Where the politics of Sing a Song of Sex were used more as subplot, Oshima offers a full-on commentary on the Vietnam War and racism in Three Resurrected Drunkards a.k.a. Sinner in Paradise.

In the opening moments, three Japanese friends head for a dip in the sea, only to return and find their clothes have been replaced by those of Korean immigrants trying to avoid the war.

This sets up a casual--often madcap (it’s been compared to Richard Lester’s/The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night)--take on identity during the Vietnam War, complete with constant recreations of Eddie Adams’ photo of Nguyễn Văn Lém’s execution.

The comedic tone of Three Resurrected Drunkards keeps Oshima’s criticism far from scathing, but its experiments in linear storytelling (at the halfway mark, the film jumps back to the beginning to resurrect his film and characters) are something to marvel.
THE EXTRAS
As is standard with the Eclipse Series, the discs are bare bones and only include liner notes.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Those looking to see more films from Nagisa Oshima after last year's Criterion Collection releases of In the Realm of the Senses and Empire of Passion may be interested in this Eclipse Series box set. Even so, these "stories of outsiders--serial killers, rabid hedonists, and stowaway misfits" are never as interesting as their plots lead to believe.
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