Nagisa Ōshima  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

(Redirected from Nagisa Oshima)
Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Nagisa Oshima (1932 – 2013) was a Japanese film director and screenwriter known for such films as In the Realm of the Senses (1976) and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983).


Early life

After graduating from Kyoto University, where he studied political history, Oshima was hired by film production company Shochiku Ltd. and quickly progressed to directing his own movies, making his debut feature A Town of Love and Hope in 1959.


Oshima's cinematic career and influence developed very swiftly, and early watershed films Cruel Story of Youth, The Sun's Burial and Night and Fog in Japan all followed in 1960. The last of these 1960 films explored Oshima's disillusionment with the traditional political left, and his frustrations with the right, and Shochiku withdrew the film from circulation after less than a week, claiming that, following the recent assassination of the Socialist Party leader by a right-wing extremist, there was a risk of "unrest". Oshima left the studio in response, and launched his own independent production company. Despite the controversy, Night And Fog In Japan was placed tenth in that year's Kinema Jumpo's best-films poll of Japanese critics, and it has subsequently amassed considerable acclaim abroad.

In 1961 Oshima directed The Catch, based on a novella by Kenzaburō Ōe about the relationship between a wartime Japanese village and a captured African American serviceman. The Catch has not traditionally been viewed as one of Oshima's major works, though it did notably introduce a thematic exploration of bigotry and xenophobia, themes which would be explored in greater depth in the later documentary Diary Of Yunbogi, and feature films Death By Hanging and Three Resurrected Drunkards.

Oshima then embarked upon a period of work in television, producing a series of documentaries; notably among them 1965's Diary Of Yunbogi. Based upon an examination of the lives of street children in Seoul, it was made by Oshima after a trip to South Korea.

One of Oshima's more formally unusual films was Band of Ninja (1967), an adaptation of the popular manga by Sampei Shirato, Ninja Bugei-chō, a 16th-century saga of oppressed peasants and deadly ninja. It is not a live-action film, or even an animated one; Oshima simply photographed close-ups of Shirato's drawings and added voices. Oshima had used the technique previously in some documentaries, and a willingness to make use of unorthodox techniques was an indication of the mature period of experimentalism which would soon surface in Oshima's work. The film was a modest critical and commercial success in Japan.

Oshima directed three features in 1968. The first of these - Death By Hanging (1968) presented the story of the failed execution of a young Korean for rape and murder, and was loosely based upon an actual crime and execution which had taken place in 1958. The film utilizes non-realistic "distancing" techniques after the fashion of Bertold Brecht or Jean-Luc Godard to examine Japan's record of racial discrimination against its Korean minority, incorporating elements of farce and political satire, and a number of visual techniques associated with the cinematic new wave in a densely layered narrative. It was placed third in Kinema Jumpo's 1968 poll, and has also garnered significant attention globally. Death By Hanging inaugurated a string of films (continuing through 1976's In the Realm of the Senses) that clarified a number of Oshima's key themes, most notably a need to question social constraints, and to similarly deconstruct received political doctrines.

Months later, Diary Of A Shinjuku Thief unites a number of Oshima's thematic concerns within a dense, collage-style presentation. Featuring a title which alludes to Jean Genet's The Thief's Journal, the film explores the links between sexual and political radicalism, specifically examining the day-to-day life of a would-be radical whose sexual desires take the form of kleptomania. The fragmented narrative is interrupted by commentators, including an underground noh performance troupe, a psychoanalyst, and an impromptu symposium featuring actors from previous Oshima films (along with Oshima himself), all dissecting varied aspects of shifting sexual politics, as embodied by various characters within the film.

Boy (1969), based on another real-life case, was the story of a family who use their child to make money by deliberately getting involved in road accidents and making the drivers pay compensation.


The Ceremony (1971) is a satirical look at Japanese attitudes, famously expressed in a scene where a marriage ceremony has to go ahead even though the bride is not present.

In 1976, Oshima made In the Realm of the Senses, a film based on a true story of fatal sexual obsession in 1930s Japan. Oshima, a critic of censorship and his contemporary Akira Kurosawa's humanism, was determined that the film should feature unsimulated sex and thus the undeveloped film had to be transported to France to be processed. An uncensored version of the movie is still unavailable in Japan. Oshima testified in a Japanese court about whether the film was obscene. "Nothing that is expressed is obscene," the director said. "What is obscene is what is hidden.”

In his 1978 companion film to In the Realm of the Senses, Empire of Passion, Oshima took a more restrained approach to depicting the sexual passions of the two lovers driven to murder, and the film won the 1978 Cannes Film Festival award for best director.

1980s and beyond

In 1983 Oshima had a critical success with a film made partly in English, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, set in a wartime prison camp, and featuring rock star David Bowie and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, alongside future director Takeshi Kitano. The movie has become a cult classic.Template:Citation needed Max, Mon Amour (1986), written with Luis Buñuel's frequent collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière, was a comedy about a diplomat's wife (Charlotte Rampling) whose love affair with a chimpanzee is quietly incorporated into an eminently civilised ménage à trois.

For much of the 1980s and 1990s, he served as president of the Directors Guild of Japan. (He actually won the inaugural Directors Guild of Japan New Directors Award in 1960.)

A collection of Oshima's essays and articles was published in English in 1993 as Cinema, Censorship and the State.

In 1996 Oshima suffered a stroke, but he recovered enough to return to directing in 1999 with the samurai film Taboo (Gohatto), set during the bakumatsu era and starring Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence actor Takeshi Kitano. Ryūichi Sakamoto, who had both acted in and composed for Lawrence, provided the score.

He subsequently suffered more strokes, and Gohatto proved to be his final film. Oshima died on January 15, 2013 of pneumonia. He was 80.


Year English title Japanese title Romaji Notes
1959 Tomorrow's Sun 明日の太陽 Ashita no taiyō Short (7 min), color.
1959 A Town of Love and Hope 愛と希望の街 Ai to kibō no machi 62 min, B&W.
1960 Cruel Story of Youth 青春残酷物語 Sēshun zankoku monogatari 96 min, color.
1960 The Sun's Burial 太陽の墓場 Taiyō no hakaba 87 min, color.
1960 Night and Fog in Japan 日本の夜と霧 Nihon no yoru to kiri 107 min, color.
1961 The Catch 飼育 Shiiku 105 min, B&W.
1962 The Rebel 天草四郎時貞 Amakusa Shirō Tokisada 101 min, B&W.
1963 A Small Child's First Adventure 小さな冒険旅行 Chiisana bōken ryokō 60 min, color.
1964 It's Me Here, Bellett 私はベレット Watashi wa beretto 60 min, color.
1965 The Pleasures of the Flesh 悦楽 Etsuraku 90 min, color.
1965 Yunbogi's Diary ユンボギの日記 Yunbogi no nikki 24 min, B&W.
1966 Violence at High Noon 白昼の通り魔 Hakuchū no tōrima 99 min, B&W.
1967 Tales of the Ninja/Band of Ninja 忍者武芸帳 Ninja bugei-chō 131 min, B&W.
1967 Sing a Song of Sex (A Treatise on Japanese Bawdy Songs) 日本春歌考 Nihon shunka-kō 103 min, color.
1967 Double Suicide: Japanese Summer 無理心中日本の夏 Muri shinjū: Nihon no natsu 98 min, B&W.
1968 Death by Hanging 絞死刑 Kōshikē 117 min, B&W.
1968 Three Resurrected Drunkards 帰って来たヨッパライ Kaette kita yopparai 80 min, color.
1969 Diary of a Shinjuku Thief 新宿泥棒日記 Shinjuku dorobō nikki 94 min, B&W/color.
1969 Boy 少年 Shōnen 97 min, color.
1970 Man Who Left His Will On Film 東京戰争戦後秘話 Tōkyō sensō sengo hiwa 94 min, B&W.
1971 The Ceremony 儀式 Gishiki 123 min, color.
1972 Dear Summer Sister 夏の妹 Natsu no Imōto 96 min, color.
1976 In the Realm of the Senses 愛のコリーダ Ai no corrida 104 min, color.
1978 Empire of Passion 愛の亡霊 Ai no bōrē 108 min, color.
1983 Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence 戦場のメリークリスマス Senjō no merī Kurisumasu 123 min, color, UK/Japan.
1986 Max, Mon Amour マックス、モン・アムール Makkusu, Mon Amūru 97 min, color. France/USA/Japan.
1999 Taboo 御法度 Gohatto 100 min, color.

TV documentaries

  • Kōri no naka no sēshun (Youth on Ice, 1962, documentary, 25 min) (TV)
  • Wasurerareta kōgun (The Forgotten Army, 1963, documentary, 25 min) (TV)
  • Sēshun no ishibumi (The Tomb of Youth, 1964, documentary, 40 min) (TV)
  • Hankotsu no toride (A Rebel's Fortress, 1964, documentary, 25 min) (TV)
  • Gimē shōjo (1964) (TV)
  • Chita Niseigo taihēyō ōdan (Crossing the Pacific on the Chita Niseigo, 1964) (TV)
  • Aru kokutetsu-jōmuin (A National Railway Worker, 1964) (TV)
  • Aogeba tōtoshi (Ode to an Old Teacher, 1964) (TV)
  • Aisurebakoso (Why I Love You, 1964) (TV)
  • Ajia no akebono (1964) (TV)
  • Gyosen sonansu (The Trawler Incident, 1965) (TV)
  • Daitōa sensō (The Pacific War, 1968) (TV)
  • Mō-takutō to bunka daikakumē (Mao Tse-Tung and the Cultural Revolution, 1969) (TV)
  • Kyojin-gun (The Giants, 1972) (TV)
  • Joi! Bangla (1972) (TV)
  • Goze: Mōmoku no onna-tabigēnin (The Journey of the Blind Musicians, 1972) (TV)
  • Bengal no chichi laman (1973) (TV)
  • Ikiteiru nihonkai-kaisen (1975) (TV)
  • The Battle of Tsushima (1975, documentary, 50 min)
  • Ōgon no daichi Bengal (The Golden Land of Bengal, 1976) (TV)
  • Ikiteiru umi no bohyō (The Sunken Tomb, 1976) (TV)
  • Ikiteiru gyokusai no shima (The Isle of the Final Battle, 1976, documentary, 25 min) (TV)
  • Denki mō-takutō (The Life of Mao, 1976) (TV)
  • Yokoi shōichi: guamu-to 28 nen no nazo o ou (Yokoi and His Twenty-Eight Years of Secret Life on Guam, 1977) (TV)
  • Shisha wa itsumademo wakai (1977) (TV)
  • Kyōto, My Mother's Place (1991)
  • 100 Years of Japanese Cinema (1994) (TV)

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Nagisa Ōshima" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools