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.
Expanded cinema became a true phenomenon in late-1960s Japan. Artists began exploring multiple projection, film as performance, and various Structuralist investigations. This program features some of the best practitioners of the period, including Matsumoto, whose three-projection piece was the first of its kind, and Miyai, who overlapped images of performance troupe Zero-Jigen on top of one another using double-projection. The program concludes with the anarchistic revolt of Shuji Terayama’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup, which scandalized the country both as a radio play and a film. (1967-1971, 77 min, 16mm and digital)
Jidai Seishin no Genshogaku (Phenomenology of Zeitgeist) (Rikuro Miyai, 37 min)
Tsuburekakatta Migime no Tame ni (For My Crushed Right Eye) (Toshio Matsumoto, 13 min)
Tomato Ketchappu Kotei (Emperor Tomato Ketchup) (Shuji Terayama, 27 min)
Co-curated by Go Hirasawa and Julian Ross
Co-presented by San Francisco Cinematheque