Ever wandered wearily into the uninhabited foreign section of your local video store? Okay, we know many of the films have bizarre titles, surreal artwork and will undoubtedly hold that abhorrent word, subtitles, on their cases. But look past those first impressions and you may be surprised with the reward. Films such as Takashi Miike’s Audition or Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away demonstrate that countries like Japan are a breeding ground for fabulously original cinema that surpass many of the US’s big budget counterparts and lacklustre re-makes. And this didn’t just happen over night; it’s been the case for decades.
So thank gawd for the British Film Institute - those lovely people at the BFI have set up a fantastic new season of cult '60s and '70s Japanese movies at the NFT from 3 to 27 November - Wild Japan: Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film.
The '60s and '70s were fruitful periods for genre film-making in Japan, with many young directors venting rage and frustration against the outmoded social conventions still widespread in their country. A subversive edge gripped Japanese cinema during this period, resulting in a goldmine of unique cult classics.
Wild Japan is possibly the finest line-up of classic Japanese cult films ever screened in the UK and the season includes very rare prints imported from Japan and the US, and offers audiences a chance to see several of these influential films on the big screen for the first time. For those of you that don’t live in the big smoke, the NFT season will be followed by a national tour.
There are lost classics from Japanese masters of film, such as Seijun Suzuki’s surreal gangster film Branded To Kill (1967) and Toshio Matsumoto’s unique, ultra cool take on the Oedipus myth Funeral Parade of Roses (1969). Stunning cult icon Meiko Kaji’s cool intensity in the legendary Female Convict Scorpion (1972), Tatsuya Nakadai breathtaking performance in the thrilling and disturbing Sword of Doom (1966) and Masahiro Shinoda’s wonderfully existential vision of Tokyo’s jazz-filled gambling dens in Pale Flower (1964) are just some of the highlights which make this a season of cult films not to be missed!
To find out more about the Wild Japan season, visit the official website at www.bfi.org.uk/wildjapan or contact the NFT box office on 020 7928 3232.