Friday, August 14, 2015

Japan Society Reinstitutes 'Monthly Classics' Film Screenings with Rarities, Re-Issues and Recent Discoveries

I received this press release earlier today and thought this might be of interest to some of you.

Launches with Restoration of Japan’s First Color Film in September, Followed by Go Takamine’s Overlooked First Feature

New York, NY – Japan Society’s Film Program resurrects Monthly Classics to give New Yorkers regular screenings of beloved classics, hidden gems or recent discoveries of Japanese cinema on the first Friday of every month.

Slated for September 2015 through June 2016, the first season of Monthly Classics launches Friday, September 4, 7:00 pm with Japan’s first-ever color film, Carmen Comes Home (1951), which was filmed during the end of the era of U.S. Occupation and addresses the issue of the influence of American culture in immediate postwar Japan. A “classic” in the traditional sense, the film was digitally restored in 2012 by Shochiku for Kinoshita’s centenary. This screening also marks the 120th anniversary of the renowned Shochiku studios.

On Friday, October 2, at 7:00 pm, Monthly Classics screens Paradise View, director Go Takamine’s first theatrical feature. A rarely-seen, little-known and wholly under-regarded film from Okinawa, this pioneering work set the course for Takamine’s distinguished filmmaking career and paved the way for new Okinawan cinema. Commemorating the 30th anniversary of the film’s release, the screening is also part of Japan Society’s Okinawan Vibes series, celebrating the arts and culture of Okinawa.

“Audiences who enjoy our seasonal repertory series and our summer JAPAN CUTS film festival have been telling us that they want see more consistent screenings throughout the year,” said Aiko Masubuchi, Japan Society Film Program Officer. “By showing audience favorites and unearthed rarities more regularly, we hope to satiate genre fans as well as appeal to those just beginning to dive into the incredibly diverse world of Japanese cinema. It also gives a chance to mark important cinematic milestones and anniversaries on a more timely basis.”

With the full season schedule in the works, the November and December installments will be in tribute to the one-year anniversaries of the passing of legendary actors Ken Takakura and Bunta Sugawara.

Admission: $12/$9 seniors and students/$5 Japan Society members. General admission tickets may be purchased in person at Japan Society, by calling the box office at 212-715-1258, or at


Carmen Comes Home (Karumen Kokyo ni Kaeru)
Friday, September 4, 7:00 pm
1951, 86 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita. With Hideko Takamine, Shuji Sano, Chishu Ryu, Kuniko Igawa, Takeshi Sakamoto, Toshiko Kobayashi.
The first Monthly Classics screening of the season kicks off with a restoration of Japan's first color film, pioneered by Fujicolor. In this breezy musical comedy, exotic dancer Lily Carmen (an irresistible Hideko Takamine) returns to her quiet countryside home from the big city in grand fashion, immediately causing a stir as she frolics and sings among the town's green fields in colorful, revealing outfits with her equally carefree sidekick Maya (Toshiko Kobayashi). Both a subtle satire on the influence of postwar American culture and a piece of lighthearted female-centric escapism, Carmen Comes Home endures as one of director Keisuke Kinoshita's most beloved films. Screening in recognition of film studio Shochiku's 120th anniversary, who oversaw the restoration. The restoration premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2012.

Paradise View (Paradaisu Byu)
Friday, October 2, 7:00 pm
**Part of the Okinawan Vibes Series
1985, 113 min., Blu-ray, color, in Okinawan dialect and Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Go Takamine. With Kaoru Kobayashi, Jun Togawa, Shinzoku Ogimi, Tomi Taira, Yoko Taniyama, Haruomi Hosono.
Go Takamine’s first theatrical feature is a pioneering work of Okinawan cinema, filmed almost entirely in Okinawan dialect. Taking place around 1970, shortly before the resumption of Japanese sovereignty over Okinawa, the film tacitly addresses the island prefecture’s complicated history of occupation and feelings of dislocation through the story of a small community and its preparations for a wedding between a local girl and a Japanese teacher. On the periphery of these events is Reishu (Kaoru Kobayashi), who quits his job on a U.S. military base and uses the extra time to catch snakes and play with ants – and get the bride-to-be pregnant. A leisurely-paced film full of uniquely Okinawan touches that mixes in aspects of the island’s folklore, Paradise View set the course for Takamine’s distinguished filmmaking career (as a native Okinawan, Takamine made a conscious effort to represent Okinawa on screen in a way that is culturally specific and politically cognizant). The film boasts a soundtrack by Yellow Magic Orchestra member Haruomi Hosono, who also has an acting role (as the Japanese teacher engaged to an Okinawan girl), and also stars underground music icon Jun Togawa.

Screening in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the film’s release, Paradise View screened at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) in 1986, where his follow-up film, Untama giru (1989) would win the Caligari Award in 1990.

>>Related Event
Kon Ichikawa Restorations
Friday & Saturday, October 16 & 17
In addition to Monthly Classics, Japan Society presents the North American Premiere of new 4k restorations of three masterpieces from renowned director Kon Ichikawa, celebrating his centenary.

Conflagration (1958)
Friday, October 16, 7:00 pm
One of the most lauded of Ichikawa’s films and his own personal favorite, adapted from a Mishima novel.

Her Brother (1960)
Saturday, October 17, 4:00 pm
A family melodrama featuring strong performance by actress Keiko Kishi, chosen as Best Film and Best Director by Kinema Junpo in 1961.

An Actor’s Revenge (1963)
Saturday, Oct 17, 7:00 pm
A visually bold and imaginative remake of a popular silent film – both featuring legendary screen actor Kazuo Hasegawa in a dual role.


For me the key bit of information is the statement that the November and December installments will be in tribute to the one-year anniversaries of the passing of legendary actors Ken Takakura and Bunta Sugawara. Assuming there are no conflicts I will be there.

For more information go to the Japan Society website.

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