"My hatred of Japanese cinema includes absolutely all of it." - Oshima Nagisa
Completely bogus "documentary" about the first hundred years of Japanese film - a topic one couldn't possibly hope to cram into an hour movie, but that any number of living directors (in 1995) would have done far more justice to than Mr. Oshima. Despite claiming that the first two of Japanese cinema's "Golden Ages" occurred prior to the 1960s, this section of Japanese film history gets an almost hilariously skimmed treatment. As another reviewer here mentions, almost all major film directors - and I'm of the opinion that EVERY major Japanese film director began their careers well before Oshima and Co. - of the classic Japanese film are mentioned once, briefly, or not at all. But who at BFI (this was produced for their "Century of Cinema" series) got the bright idea to let the irreverent Oshima do this? The directors of the Japanese "New Wave" were, with few exceptions, hostile towards or dismissive of all that had come before in their national cinema. Oshima, though claiming to detest the "New Wave" tag in his largely first-person narration here, certainly feels that the era that he was a major player in, the era that opened the floodgates to the so-called extreme films that make up the bulk of the Japanese export market today, was the most important in the nation's cinematic history. And indeed, if one is looking for an overview of Oshima Nagisa films, one could do worse than looking here, as clips of his own films outnumber those of Ozu, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, and Kinoshita, and Naruse combined. The the last of these doesn't even merit a clip or a mention in the whole film.
Oshima was one of those angry young filmmakers who cropped up like mushrooms worldwide in the 1960s - and in the mess of post-war Japan he had a right to be angry. However, his films, which highlighted social ills that were all too real, were for the most part angry and little else. Like many similar filmmakers of his generation all he could offer is a rather poorly thought-out extreme Marxism. Oshima's films contained a lot of violence and sex on the one hand and a great deal of tedious speechifying and little red flags on the other. This is not my sort of thing.
Like J. L. Godard in his pompous, ludicrous HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA, we have a director who seems to have no real enthusiasm for his subject, but who does have a great deal of self-adoration and a wildly overinflated view of his place in film history. It's too bad that there remains, as far as I know, a good documentary overview of Japanese film. If you want a solid history of the subject stick to the books. Richie and Anderson's pioneering Japanese FILM: ART AND INDUSTRY is a good place to start.
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