SERIES AT A GLANCE
All shows $9.50 general admission, $7.50 w/college ID; $6.50 seniors & children under 12. All shows before 5:00 PM are $7.50 bargain matinees.

Fri 4/18 Single Features
A Colt Is My Passport
7:30
Black Rose Mansion
9:30

Sat 4/19 Single Features
Mothra
3:30, 5:30
Plains Wanderer
7:30
The Warped Ones
9:30

Sun 4/20Single Features
Red Handkerchief
5:30
Velvet Hustler
7:30
Black Rose Mansion
9:30

Mon 4/21 Three Outlaw Samurai
5:30, 7:30, 9:30

Tue 4/22Death By Hanging
4:45, 7:15, 9:45

Wed 4/23 High And Low
5:00, 8:00

Thu 4/24Woman In The Dunes
8:00
Repertory Series
Nikkatsu Action & 60s Japan
Friday, April 18 - Thursday, April 24, 2008

The label said it all: Nikkatsu akushon. Nikkatsu was a studio that had been around since the silent days and akushon was "action," written in the katakana syllabary for foreign words. During their peak, Nikkatsu Action films evoked a cinematic world neither foreign nor Japanese. It was a mix of the two, where Japanese tough guys had the swagger, moves, and even the long legs of Hollywood movie heroes. It was a place where the Tokyo streets, Yokohama docks, and Hokkaido hills took on an exciting, exotic aura, as though they were stand-ins for Manhattan, Marseilles, or the American West. Where one guy with guts, smarts, and a pair of quick fists could beat a whole gang of baddies.

Although Nikatsu director Seijun Suzuki has risen to Western cult fame, foreign critics still dismiss most of the films of his studio colleagues as hack work, despite having seen so few of them. The aim of this retrospective series, first presented at the 2005 Udine Far East Film Festival, is not to challenge the critical consensus but to provide opportunities for the discovery of new classics of Japanese genre cinema that may stand alongside those already enshrined in the critical canon.

As a complement to the special prints from Nikkatsu, we present this brief selection of the other films being produced in Japan in the 1960s. Our selections include dense psychological dramas from arthouse titans like Nagisa Oshima's DEATH BY HANGING and Hiroshi Teshigahara's WOMAN IN THE DUNES and one amazing, gritty neo-noir from the immortal Akira Kurosawa. And, in line with Nikkatsu's B-movie epics, we're also showing some genre classics including the surreal, cute-and-cuddly giant monster movie MOTHRA, B-movie master Kinji "Battle Royale" Fukasaku's just plain bizarre BLACK ROSE MANSION, and, of course, the series wouldn't be complete without at least one samurai... how about THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI?

Special thanks to Marc Walkow and Outcast Cinema.


FILM DESCRIPTIONS:
Friday, April 18 at 7:30 Single Feature
A Colt Is My Passport
(1967) dir Takashi Nomura w/Jo Shishido, Jerry Fujio [84 min]

In Takashi Nomura's chilly noirish thriller, Shishido plays a hitman hired by a gang to whack a rival boss. He does the deed with a sniper rifle and, together with sidekick, makes his escape. But before they can board their getaway plane, they are snatched by thugs from the rival gang. They make a narrow escape and arrange passage out of the country, but deadly complications ensue, forcing Shishido to improvise yet another escape for himself and his partner, but before they can depart, they're forced into an explosive showdown with killers from the rival gang. The final showdown between a solitary Shishido and a bullet-proof car full of gangsters staged on a deserted beach at dawn, the howling wind sweeping sand across the ground, is as impressive as anything of the era in this neglected masterpiece. NOT ON VIDEO!
Friday, April 18 at 9:30Single Feature • Also Plays Sun 4/20 at 9:30
Black Rose Mansion
(1969) dir Kinji Fukasaku w/Akihiro Maruyama, Eitaro Ozawa, Masakazu Tamuro [91 min]

Though mostly known for his gritty yakuza dramas and, now, his legendary cult film Battle Royale, Kinji Fukasaku's career ranges across (and liberally messes around with) many genres. BLACK ROSE MANSION is one of his least definable films... Famous drag-star/singer Akihiro Maruyama stars in this feverishly perverse, campy and baroque freak-out. A wealthy playboy installs songbird "Black Rose" (Maruyama) in his elegant private men's club to bolster business - but he gets more than he bargains for when she attracts scores of homicidal past lovers, and not only he but his ne'er-do-well son end up falling for the femme fatale.

Clip: Miwa Akihiro sings in Black Rose Mansion
Saturday, April 19 at 3:30, 5:30 Single Feature
Mothra
(1961) dir Ishiro Honda w/Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyoko Kagawa [101 min]

No overview of 60s Japanese cinema would be complete without at least one of Ishiro Honda's classic kaiju eiga (monster movies). Honda is the creator of the Godzilla mythos and, if that were his only achievement, he'd be immortal, but he also created some strikingly surreal films devoid of giant lizards, and this is one of them... Sort of a trippy version of King Kong, MOTHRA features a pair of foot high singing divas who are kidnapped from a mysterious island by an unscrupulous showman, Clark Nelson. Nelson brings the cute little things to Tokyo where he hopes to make a quick yen off them. Unfortunately, the girls' song is actually a telepathic call for help to their island goddess, the gigantic moth creature, MOTHRA, and soon Tokyo is in ruins yet again!

Original Theatrical Trailer (in Japanese)
Saturday, April 19 at 7:30 Single Feature
Plains Wanderer
(1960) dir Buichi Saito w/Akira Kobayashi, Ruriko Asaoka, Jo Shishido, Nobuo Kaneko [83 min]

Kobayashi plays a traveler on Japan's back roads with most of the accoutrements of a Western hero, from a horse to fringes, to a guitar and even a trusty bullwhip. He moseys into a town or ranch, sides with the good local folk against gangsters or other evildoers, while winning the heart of a local maiden (played in all but one installment by Asaoka). He also finds a rival, then ally, in Shishido, playing his usual role as a lout with a good heart. Here, Kobayashi's drifter takes the side of the Ainu - Japan's aborigines - fighting a developer (Kaneko) who wants to turn their land into an airstrip for tourists. Complications ensue, making for an engagingly twisty story, as Kobayashi and Shishido exchange snappy banter and slick moves with a can-you-top-this cool. NOT ON VIDEO!

Original Theatrical Trailer (w/subtitles)
Saturday, April 19 at 9:30Single Feature
The Warped Ones
(1960) dir Koreyoshi Kurahara w/Tamio Kawachi, Eiji Go, Noriko Matsumoto [75 min]

One of director Koreyoshi Kurahara's boldest departures from studio convention is this frantic, black-and-white portrait of youth culture gone wild, starring Kawachi as Akira, a punk who hangs out at a jazz coffee house, living and breathing the wild Western music. Sent to jail for pickpocketing, he meets like-minded Masaru (Go), and when they get out they get together with a hooker friend and go on a crime spree that ranges from theft to rape. Afterwards, they shack up, sharing sex as they would cigarettes. They soon find, however, that actions do have consequences: sometimes violent, fatal, and absurd. Released not long after Godard's Breathless, THE WARPED ONES has similarly amoral characters, frenetic pace, and dynamic hand-held cinematography, but Kurahara's vision is, if anything, more extreme, even to the point of existing in a world of its own, beyond normal comprehension. Kawachi's famously uninhibited performance catapults the film into the highest ranks of "bad youth" cinema. A stylistic and amoral high point of early 60s cinema. NOT ON VIDEO!
Sunday, April 20 at 5:30 Single Feature
Red Handkerchief
(1964) dir Toshio Masuda w/Yugiro Ishihara, Ruriko Asaoka, Hideaki Nitani [98 min]

A career landmark for both superstar Yujiro Ishihara and director Toshio Masuda, RED HANDKERCHIEF also became the ultimate definer of Nikkatsu's muudo akushon ("mood action") aesthetic. Ishihara is a Yokohama detective who, together with partner Nitani, is trying to crack a big drug case. They nab a key witness, a crusty old food stall owner, but he refuses to spill. Meanwhile Ishihara becomes acquainted - and infatuated with - his factory worker daughter (Asaoka), but it all ends badly when the old man makes what looks to be a suicidal escape attempt - and Ishihara's bullet stops him. Flash forward four years: Ishihara is now a construction worker, and Nitani a wealthy businessman who has married Asaoka. At the persistent urging of a senior detective, Ishihara decides to determine the truth behind the events of that fateful day. First, though, he has to resolve his doubts about not only his own actions, but the true motives of his former partner. NOT ON VIDEO!

Original Theatrical Trailer (in Japanese)
Sunday, April 20 at 7:30 Single Feature
Velvet Hustler
(1967) dir Toshio Masuda w/Tetsuya Watari, Ruriko Asaoka [97 min]

VELVET HUSTLER stars Watari as Goro, a Tokyo hitman who likes his women like he likes his cars: fast and dangerous. After rubbing out a rival gang boss, he leaps into a conveniently parked red convertible and hotfoots it to the other side of Japan. After a year of lying low, he has wound up the kingpin of the Kobe underground, hanging out in smoky lounge bars, while avoiding both a suspicious police detective, and the mysterious hitman sent to kill him. But Goro pines to leave vulgar Kobe to return to the sophisticated big city... perhaps with the striking Keiko (Asaoka) by his side. NOT ON VIDEO!
Sunday, April 20 at 9:30Single Feature
Black Rose Mansion
(1969) dir Kinji Fukasaku w/Akihiro Maruyama, Eitaro Ozawa, Masakazu Tamuro [91 min]

Though mostly known for his gritty yakuza dramas and, now, his legendary cult film Battle Royale, Kinji Fukasaku's career ranges across (and liberally messes around with) many genres. BLACK ROSE MANSION is one of his least definable films... Famous drag-star/singer Akihiro Maruyama stars in this feverishly perverse, campy and baroque freak-out. A wealthy playboy installs songbird "Black Rose" (Maruyama) in his elegant private men's club to bolster business - but he gets more than he bargains for when she attracts scores of homicidal past lovers, and not only he but his ne'er-do-well son end up falling for the femme fatale.

Clip: Miwa Akihiro sings in Black Rose Mansion (in Japanese)
Monday, April 21 at 5:30, 7:30, 9:30Three Outlaw Samurai
(1964) dir Hideo Gosha w/Tetsuro Tamba, Mikijiro Hira, Kamatari Fujiwara, Kyoko Aoi [95 min]

Of course, samurai period pieces have always been a huge part Japanese cinema and the 60s saw some remarkable films produced. In this one, a wandering samurai is swayed into helping some starving farmers who have kidnapped a local lord's daughter in protest over unfair taxes. In the process, much blood is shed, and two other swords-for-hire become reluctant draftees into the band of rebels. Gosha's use of the B&W Cinemascope frame astonishes and his down-to-earth, hardboiled ambience is rarely seen in early 1960s samurai pictures. NOT ON VIDEO!

Original Theatrical Trailer (in Japanese)
Tuesday, April 22 at 4:45, 7:15, 9:45Death By Hanging
(1968) dir Nagisa Oshima w/Kei Sato, Fumio Watanabe, Toshiro Ishido [117 min]

In Nagisa Oshima's bleakly black comedy, a criminal is sentenced to be hanged but mysteriously survives and, as the guards and officials present soon find out, has lost all memory of his crime, trial and eventual fate. The ensuing debate about how to deal with him points to Oshima's skill as both a passionate social critic and a Godardian trickster. NOT ON VIDEO!

Original Theatrical Trailer (w/subtitles)
Wednesday, April 23 at 5:00, 8:00 High And Low
(1963) dir Akira Kurosawa w/Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyoko Kagawa [142 min]

The (mostly) undisputed champion of Japanese cinema is Akira Kurosawa and this tense neo-noir is one of his finest achievements. The first half of the movie takes place in the spacious hillside apartment of a hotshot Tokyo businessman who is informed that his son has been kidnapped, only to find out that a critical mistake has been made. In the second half, Mifune travels through the lower depths of the city in search of the young kidnapper.

Trailer (w/subtitles)
Thursday, April 24 at 8:00Woman In The Dunes
(1964) dir Hiroshi Teshigahara w/Eiji Okada, Kyoko Kishida [147 min]

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1964 and nominated for two Academy Awards, Teshigahara's masterpiece is a disquieting examination of power and sexuality fueled by stunning visual imagery. An entomologist stays overnight in a small town, only to awaken the next morning to find himself trapped by encroaching sand dunes. Held prisoner, he must shovel the sands back to avoid being buried alive as he simultaneously succumbs to the seduction of his female captor. Shot in stark black and white giving the rippling sands an erotic undercurrent, the cinematography juxtaposes the violence of the dunes with searing close-ups of the lead actors. An essential big-screen experience.

Original Theatrical Trailer (in Japanese)

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