Nagisa Ôshima: Japanese Iconoclast

Styling himself as the anti-Ozu, anti-Mizoguchi and anti-Kurosawa, the politicised Nagasi Ôshima (1930-2013) provoked the Japanese film establishment throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Most famously, material for 1976’s In the Realm of the Senses had to be developed in France due to the non-simulated and non-fogged sex scenes being illegal in Japan itself. The experience of making the film, itself prompted by the rise of the pinku (erotic film) genre, led to Ôshima penning polemical essays on film, censorship and the state.

Night and Fog in Japan

Nagisa Ôshima | Japan | 1960 | 107 minutes

The last of three films directed by Ôshima in 1960, this critique of Japan’s post-war right and left was swiftly withdrawn from circulation by Shochiku studios, leading to Ôshima establishing his own independent production company. The title alludes to Resnais’s Holocaust-themed documentary Night and Fog (1954) to signpost the influence of the nouvelle vague on Ôshima.

Death by Hanging

Nagisa Ôshima | Japan | 1968 | 117 minutes

A challenging exploration of capital punishment and ethnic prejudice in Japan, inspired by Godard, Brecht and the 1958 failed execution of a Korean, this formally challenging, Kafka-esque satire presents the story of an unsuccessfully hanged man, R. As he has lost his memory, the establishment is unsure of what to do, leading to a series of grotesque and tragi-comic events.

Diary of a Shijunku Thief

Nagisa Ôshima | Japan | 1968 | 96 minutes

With a title alluding to Jean Genet’s The Thief’s Journal (1949), the third of Ôshima’s three releases from the pivotal year of 1968 sees the filmmaker exploring relationships between sex and politics via the case-study of a would-be radical and kleptomaniac.

Boy

Nagisa Ôshima | Japan | 1969 | 105 minutes

Inspired by the real life case of a family who used their young son to cause road accidents in order to profit from insurance claims, Boy has obvious contemporary resonances for today’s compensation culture and ambulance chasing lawyers.

The Man Who Left his Will on Film

Nagisa Ôshima | Japan | 1970 | 94 minutes

A young radical filmmaker tries to unravel the mystery of why another man should grab his camera, run off with it, and then threw himself off a building whilst still filming.

The Ceremony

Nagisa Ôshima | Japan | 1971 | 123 minutes

A satirical look at Japanese attitudes, most notably the famous scene of an absurdist, Buñuelian wedding that goes ahead despite the absence of the bride.