Chirs Fujiwara's message
My main interest is in the discovery and recovery of film authors and the production of discourse about the stylistic and aesthetic levels of their work. From this point of view, there is nothing special about Japanese cinema (apart from its immense richness and variety) in comparison with other national cinemas. Of course the circumstances of Japanese film production and distribution are specific to the nation, as are certain themes, certain stories, certain images, and it's entirely valid to study these things. But I am more interested in what particular filmmakers do with the fact of being Japanese, or perhaps don't do with it, when they make a film.


Chirs Fujiwara selection:

Notes of an Itinerant Performer 歌女おぼえ書
Over his long career, Hiroshi Shimizu made many films on many different subjects. In them, it's easy to trace some consistent preoccupations, such as women who are forced to turn to disreputable professions and children who are more or less abandoned by adults and must create their own world. Shimizu's own attitude seems to be characterized by a refusal to reveal himself or to become involved too deeply in any particular story, as if he were keeping human life at arm's length and merely observing it, turning from one near-tragedy or unexpected redemption to the next. There is a great freedom in that attitude, which also characterizes Shimizu's drifting approach to narrative. Notes of an Itinerant Performer is an ideal representative of his work. The fluid, unpredictable construction of the story is closely linked to the conception of the central character, an itinerant performer whose ability to move from one social world to another implies an assertion of human freedom. (Chris Fujiwara)


By a Man's Face Shall You Know Him 男の顔は履歴書
Tai Kato is still largely unknown outside Japan, though he has recently become a cult figure for foreign aficionados of the chambara and yakuza genres. By a Man's Face Shall You Know Him, which stars former real-life yakuza Noboru Ando, is an extreme film, made with immense stylistic integrity. It's filled with intense and imaginative cinematic ideas, such as a cut from a shot of blood dripping from a sheet on a surgery table to a shot of the open mouth and exposed throat of a woman making love. The color schemes and the choreography in a night-club sequence suddenly turn this postwar yakuza story into a science-fiction. All through the film, Kato demonstrates an exciting audaciousness in storytelling together with a remarkable firmness of control over movement and composition. (Chris Fujiwara)


Youth to Kill 青春の殺人者
The hero of Youth to Kill, an Art Theatre Guild production, is a young man who stabs his father to death and then covers up the crime with the aid of his mother and his girlfriend. Though this is the first film by its director, Kazuhiko Hasegawa, it marks an impasse. Made at what feels like the end of an era, the film constantly comments on its own untimeliness, and it is a completely hopeless film, seemingly unable to imagine any forward direction. The rather theatrical style of the film suggests a ritual in which the characters act out their own entrapment within a dystopian Japan (specifically, Chiba, near the site of Narita Airport, whose construction was nearing its completion at the time the film was made in 1976). Within this ritual, cinema itself, represented by an avant-garde 8-millimeter film supposedly made by the hero during his high-school years, plays a sacrificial role. (Chris Fujiwara)