Essential Japanese New Wave Films

“As Touch of Evil is to classical film noir, so Vengeance Is Mine is to the Japanese New Wave,” Slant Magazine’s Clayton Dillard wrote of Shôhei Imamura’s 1979 film, which arrived on Blu-ray from Criterion this week. “Each film retrospectively serves as the apotheosis for the style or movement, encapsulating many of the aims and concerns of films from the previous two decades into a singular, reflexive work.”

Catch-all terms like “New Wave” can be confusing, but in this case I’m referring to the cinematic movement in Japan during the late 1950s and into the ’70s. Comparisons to the familiar French New Wave period, which developed during the same time, are inevitable. And many Japanese New Wave filmmakers were influenced by directors such as François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. But as author and editor David Desser wrote in his indispensable book Eros Plus Massacre (borrowing its title from the canon):

To see the Japanese New Wave as an imitation of the French New Wave fails to see the Japanese context out of which the movement arose. While the Japanese New Wave did draw benefits from the French New Wave, mainly in the form of a handy journalistic label which could be applied to it (the “nuberu bagu” from the Japanese pronunciation of the French term), it nevertheless possesses a high degree of integrity and specificity.

Here are a few essential titles that explore key themes from the Japanese New Wave movement. … Read More

  • 0

25 Incredible Akira Kurosawa Quotes About Filmmaking

One of the most revered filmmakers in the history of cinema, and one who helped bring international attention to Japanese filmmaking, the distinguished Akira Kurosawa continues to influence moviemaking the world over. The Seven Samurai and Yojimbo director would have celebrated a birthday today, and to honor his memory, we’re revisiting some of his most compelling quotes about filmmaking. Through Kurosawa’s words, many of which come from the insightful Something Like An Autobiography, we get a feel for his complexity, incredible technique, passion, the poetry of his process, and profound philosophy. … Read More

  • 1

Surprisingly Gorgeous Manhole Covers from Japan

“Public art” and “sanitation infrastructure” generally don’t mix. But in Japan, cities and towns regularly get creative with manhole covers, placing visually stunning works of art right underneath pedestrians’ feet. There are almost 6,000 of the covers around the country, turning a decidedly unglamorous necessity into museum-worthy art. Photographer S. Morita has documented hundreds of these covers over the years; the complete set is available on Morita’s Flickr page. Here are some of the highlights. … Read More

  • 1

Regal Photos of Samurai Men in Storm-Ravaged Japan

The 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex that ravaged Japan has not quelled the country’s rich cultural traditions. Soma Nomaoi is an annual celebration honoring samurai culture in Fukushima, which dates back more than one thousand years ago. The disaster death toll is staggering. Many people were forced to relocate due to radiation, but the surviving Nomaoi men have banded together in the face of tragedy and honored those lost by continuing to observe the gathering. We learned about artist Noriko Takasugi on My Modern Met, who spent a month photographing Fukushima’s Nomaoi and believes the event is “an embodiment of their identity and fight for survival.” Read some their personal stories, and see Takasugi’s regal photos of the men amongst their storm-ravaged surroundings in our gallery. … Read More

  • 0

Awesome Photos of Japanese Teens Reenacting ‘Dragon Ball Z’-Style Energy Attacks

We bet you’ve been excited for a movie release before, but have you ever gotten so pumped you decided to recreate its signature special effects with all your classmates? Such is the level of dedication dozens of Japanese teenagers showed in anticipation of the March 30th release of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, the 18th full-length movie of the anime franchise and its first in 17 years. Recreating Dragon Ball Z‘s signature energy attacks, including the “Makankosappo”  and “Kamehameha” moves, and posting the expertly choreographed results to social media has become the latest fad, a phenomenon that’s both impressive and really, really cool looking. Here are some of the most amazing pictures from the meme, which we learned about via My Modern Met, for your viewing pleasure.
… Read More

  • 0

Incredible Photos of Japan’s Recent Volcano Eruption

Few would brave getting this close to an erupting volcano. If the German photographer Martin Rietze – who produced this astounding series of photographs of an exploding volcano in southern Kyushu, Japan – was even a little bit frightened when he captured these, his photos don’t betray him. There’s an audacity inherent to each of Rietze’s photos (which we discovered at My Modern Met), in the lush plumes of pink, gray, and purple smoke, the volcano’s sparkling jets of lava, and the flashes of lightning that crackle at their top. His photos offer a way of looking at a natural disaster that could create phenomenal danger but is also, for all the harm it might reap, overwhelmingly beautiful to watch. Perhaps looking at Rietze’s photos invokes the same kind of relationship to the volcano – a unique mixture of awe, wonder and fear – the photographer felt himself, standing before the thing itself. … Read More

  • 0

Badass Photos of 19th-Century Tattooed Japanese Mail Runners

Who runs around wearing a loincloth, covered in tattoos, and delivers mail on a stick while managing not to look like an absolute fool? Japanese mail runners during the 19th century, that’s who — and they put modern bike messengers to shame. During the Edo period, tattoos became a popular form of art, and these guys are sporting some fantastic ink. Some historians debate that skin art was mainly a phenomenon amongst the lower class, but Okinawa Soba — the culture purveyor who published these wonderful hand colored photos that we found on Retronaut — points out, “the tattoo showed up everywhere in Japan — from the Ainu in the North, to the Okinawans in the South.” Check out more mail runners in our gallery, and feel sad that you’ll never look this badass in your life. … Read More

  • 0

10 Essential Japanese Films

“Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing,” the great Akira Kurosawa once said. The statement forms the basis for his 1950 movie, Rashômon — a film credited with introducing Japanese cinema to worldwide audiences after winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Rashômon tells a non-linear story about a brutal rape and murder in the woods from four different, fallible perspectives. There is no ultimate resolution, and audiences are left questioning the nature of truth and perception. It’s a hypnotic and ambiguous journey. Kurosawa’s existential masterpiece has been given the Criterion Blu-ray treatment, and we thought it would be the perfect time to revisit other essential Japanese films. Head past the break to see what works made the cut. Since this is just the tip of the iceberg, feel free to add to our list in the comments section. … Read More

  • 21

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,940 other followers