Of Ghosts, Samurai and War: A Series of Classic Japanese Film
Friday, March 4 through Saturday, March 19
Asia Society – 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street)
Tickets: $12/$10 seniors and students/$8 Asia Society members (per film)
Asia Society presents six films in Of Ghosts, Samurai and War: A Series of Classic Japanese Film in conjunction with the exhibition Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan and part of Asia Society’s Season of Japan. Featuring powerhouse Japanese directors Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Masaki Kobayashi, Keisuke, Kinoshita, and Kaneto Shindo, the series focuses on the golden age of Japanese cinema, during the 1950s and ‘60s. Although these films were set in Japan’s Middle Ages (12th through 17th centuries), their themes are reflect the struggles of surviving war, as the sting of losing World War II was fresh in the directors’ minds.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Friday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m.
Brimming with action, while examining the validity of justice and the elusive nature of “truth,” Rashomon not only demonstrates the highest achievement of cinematic art but also a philosophical quest. Set in the 12th century, the film centers around four contradictory perspectives of one incident—the rape of an aristocratic woman and the murder of her husband. Through ingenious camera use and flashbacks, Kurosawa reveals the complexities of human nature as each individual recounts their versions of the truth.
Recipient of the Grand Prix of the Venice International Film Festival and Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film, this eloquent masterwork revolutionized film language and is credited as introducing Japanese cinema to the world.
Tales Of The Taira Clan (Shin Heike Monogatari)
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Saturday, March 5 at 5:00 p.m.
This lavish, sweeping, historical epic is set at the end of the 12th century, when a long period of peace was disrupted by several wars for control of Japan. The film is centered around Kiyomori Taira (Raizo Ichikawa), an ambitious warrior who fights alongside other members of his clan to overcome the Minamoto clan and their bid for power. Conflict erupts as the puppet Emperor and insurgent Buddhist monks take sides in the power struggle. Epic action and emotional potency are equally relevant in the themes of class, injustice, and family legacies that run throughout the film.
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi
Sunday, March 6 at 4:00 p.m.
Masaki Kobayashi’s rapturously stylized quartet of ghost stories flawlessly creates supernatural worlds wherein each of its four protagonists grows increasingly distant from the confines of reality. With colorfully surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales of demonic comeuppance and spiritual trials are adapted from writer Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore. Meticulously crafted and existentially frightening, the supernatural spells of Kwaidan remain timelessly effective.
Ugetsu (Ugetsu monogatari)
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Friday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m.
Ugetsu is a ghost tale like no other, telling the story of two brothers, one consumed by greed, the other by envy. In an era when armies savage the land, the brothers risk their families and their lives to pursue their obsessions, actively defying rulings of the time. Based on the story of the same name by Akinari Ueda, this haunting tale of love and loss—with its exquisite blend of reality with otherworldliness—is a cinematic masterpiece.
Fuefuki River (Fuefuki-gawa)
Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita
Friday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m.
Audaciously adapted from Shichiro Fukazawa’s historical novel, the story chronicles five generations of a poor farmer’s family living on the bank of Fuefuki River near Mt. Fuji. Their modest hope of raising a family peacefully is continuously crushed as male family members are taken to war one by one, falling to the mercy of the powerful samurai. Kinoshita tinted parts of the black and white film with color, creating an intriguing effect in portraying the horrors and desperation of the warfare and resilient spirit of the people despite hardship.
Directed by Kaneto Shindo
Saturday, March 19 at 5:00 p.m.
Deep within the wind-swept marshes of war-torn medieval Japan, an impoverished mother and her daughter-in-law eke out a lonely, desperate existence by murdering lost samurai and selling their belongings for grain. When a bedraggled neighbor returns from the skirmishes, lust, jealousy, and rage threaten to destroy the trio’s tenuous existence, until an ominous demon mask ultimately seals the trio’s horrifying fate. Driven by primal emotions, dark eroticism, a frenzied score by Hikaru Hayashi, and stunning images both lyrical and macabre, Kaneto Shindo’s chilling folktale Onibaba is a singular cinematic experience. —Courtesy the Criterion Collection
All films are in Japanese with English subtitles. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit Asia Society’s website.