Oshima's Boy

Cinematheque Ontario Launches Oshima Retrospective

Friday evening marks the launch of one of the most exciting programmes to hit Cinematheque Ontario this fall season.

Along with a smaller retrospective for UK director David Lean, the gem of the fall season would have to be the huge retrospective of works by the widely celebrated Japanese director Nagisa Oshima. Not only is this the first major retrospective of Oshima's films in over 20 years, the programme is almost full of newly remastered and struck prints, many of which will be shown for the first time in Toronto, ever.

The first film of the retrospective, Cruel Story of Youth, is a perfect reflection of Oshima's interest in awkward youths; young people who aren't exactly as they should, or as they would like to be. In Cruel Story, while the protagonists (if you can call them that) create an antagonistic relationship with each other, continually declare themselves rebels and sneer at those who wish to change them, they expose themselves as a generation of cynics living up to the expectations set by the idealist generation that spawned them. Cruel Story of Youth has been called the equivalent of Breathless for Japan, both for the jump-start of the new wave movement and the focus on errant youth.

Another highlight of the retrospective is the screening of one of Oshima's most sought after films, Boy. The film follows the life of a child whose family intentionally places in road accidents, as to blackmail money from the drivers. Bleak and jarring with a pointed depiction of child abuse and neglect gone mostly unpunished, Boy is not a film for the light of heart as the film feels quite real at times, almost as if it's one of Oshima's documentaries.

Whether political, cultural or sexual, there are few stones Oshima hasn't turned up, dug into and taken a closer look at. Sometimes this lead to his films being banned (In the Realm of the Senses, for one) while others flourished despite tricky subject matter. The former could have happened to his most recent work, the 1999 film Gohatto (Taboo) which focused on homosexual tension caused by a new, fey Samurai recruit, Kano, and his elders. But instead the film was widely received, nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes and starred Japanese superstars Beat Takeshi as an older Samurai wary of the passion amongst the new recruits and Tadanobu Asano as one of the many men in love with Kano. Closer to a detective story than an erotic love quadrangle, Taboo is more about rumour, influence and motive, than sex and intrigue.

The Nagisa Oshima Retrospective will be running at the Cinematheque Ontario from Friday October 31st with Cruel Story of Youth until Kyoto, My Mothers Place & 100 Years of Japanese Cinema on December 9th.

Image: Boy from Cinematheque Ontario

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