The programs assembled for “Fragments of Japanese Underground Cinema 1960-1974” are a selection of radical highlights with historical significance from Tokyo’s counterculture during a politically fervent and socially subversive period of its recent history. Tracing an entire decade of rarely screened works, the programs together examine early experiments in collective filmmaking with the Nihon University Cinema Club; home-movie formats adapted for the purposes of artistic expression with the Group of Three; the redefinition of collage-film with Motoharu Jonouchi’s and Michio Okabe’s film-documents; an expansion of cinematic vision with a multi-projection program; and all-out anarchy with poet Shuji Terayama’s foray into film expression. The eclecticism of the titles is a testimony to the ways in which the limits of film were pushed in all directions in the hands of these artists who perceived cinema to be pregnant with possibilities. At times a document of an era and at other times absolutely timeless, the program looks back whilst looking forward to what cinema once was and what it could still be.
Concurrent to the “Chronicles of Inferno: Films from the Art Theater Guild of Japan” series at the Pacific Film Archive, February 7-27, and the academic conference “Media Histories/Media Theories and East Asia” organized by Miryam Sas at UC Berkeley, February 7-8. Thanks to the Japan Foundation, Museum of Modern Art, UC Berkeley, and Pacific Film Archive.
This program reunites the collective the Group of Three, namely Obayashi, Takabayashi and Iimura, who were hailed in the early 1960s for adopting the 8mm format for purposes beyond home-movie diaries with eclectic results: from Obayashi’s joyous films delivered with jocular exuberance to Iimura’s ominous imagery sound-tracked by cutting-edge musicians of the time, including Takehisa Kosugi and Yasunao Tone, both represented in this program. Yoichi Takayabashi’s lyrical eroticism manifests itself in Musashino as an imaginary deity in the forest and a ukiyo-e print. (1961-1965, 65 min, 16mm and digital)
Nakasendo (Nakasen Road) (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 17 min)
Complexe: Binetsu no Hari aruiwa Kanashii Jyozetsu Warutsu ni notte Soretsu no Sampomichi (Complexe) (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 15 min)
Kuzu (Junk) (Takahiko Iimura, 12 min)
Onan (Takahiko Iimura, 7min)
Musashino (Yoichi Takabayashi, 15 min)
Co-curated by Go Hirasawa and Julian Ross
Co-presented by San Francisco Cinematheque