Sunday, September 2, 2007
Shohei Imamura (1926-)
I show true things using fictional techniques but maintaining truthfulness — that's where my approach differs from Ozu. He wanted to make film more aesthetic. I want to make it more real. He aspired toward a cinematic nirvana. When I was his assistant, I was very opposed to him, but now, whilst still not liking his films, I'm much more tolerant. As for me, I'd like to destroy this premise that cinema is fiction.
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The director Imamura Shohei, author of a "counter-history" in Japan, was born in 1926 in Tokyo. Employed by the Shochiku as of 1951, Imamura worked as an assistant director for film-makers such as Yasujiro Ozu and Kobayashi. After moving to the Nikkatsu, he wrote scripts and was then promoted to director. In 1958, still for the Nikkatsu, he directed three feature films which described characters from the "low people". After being commissioned to shoot a film about miners in Kyushu, Imamura shot Buta to gunkan (Pigs and Tough Guys/Girls and Gangsters) caused a scandal. It described the work of traffickers who made a living from the trade of pigs fed on the waste left by American bases. The young director wanted to present a symbolic image of post-war Japan. He continued in the same demystifying vein with Nipon konchuki (Entomological Chronicle of Japan/The Woman Insect, 1963), a portrait of a prostitute fighting for her independence, Akai satsui (Murderous Desires, 1964) and particularly Jinruigaki nyumon (Introduction to Anthropology/The Pornographer, 1965), adapted from Nozaka's novel, where the theme of sexuality came to the fore.
In 1965, Imamura set up his own production company and pursued his social and sexual analysis of Japan, seeking, in his own words, "the origins of the Japanese people" - Ningen johatsu (Evaporation of Man, 1967) and the extraordinary Kamigami no fukaki (Gods' Deep Desires, 1968) which confronted still primitive Japan with the industrial boom. Tired of the commercial failures of these "disturbing" films, he was obliged to retreat into television. In 1971, he resurfaced with Fukushu suru wa ware ni ari (My Revenge is Mine). In a much deserved turn-around, Imamura was awarded the Palme d'or at the Festival de Cannes in 1983 for Narayama bushi-ko (The Ballad of Narayama). After Zegen (The God of the Brothels, 1987) and Kuroi ame (Black Rain, 1989), he waited eight years before shooting Ungai (The Eel). [Adapted from Locarno Film Festival]
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