Seishun zankoku monogatari (Nackte Jugend), 1960, Ōshima Nagisa

Kino-Atlas 5:

Shōchiku New Wave
Japanese Cinema 1960

June 8 to 19, 2017

After the great success rival film studios such as Nikkatsu and Daiei had with films centered on young protagonists in the late 1950s, Shōchiku, the most successful, but also the most conservative studio of the time, decided to follow suit. A "New Wave" was proclaimed with the contemporary French model in mind: young directors such as Ōshima Nagisa, Shinoda Masahiro and Yoshida Yoshishige, who had previously worked as assistants of established masters the likes of Ozu Yasujirō or Kinoshita Keinosuke, could now make their own debuts. However, this was not the making of a long-lasting model of success: the politically engaged Ōshima left the studio just two years later, while the other two directors found their way towards independence soon afterwards. The entire system of classical cinema plunged into a crisis it was never to recover from.

In a short revolutionary phase, which was endorsed for purely commercial reasons, Shōchiku declared cinema a field of experimentation and films began to think beyond the possibilities and confines of the studio system. However, around 1960, Japan experienced more than cinematic upheavals; running parallel with the "New Wave", protests against the revised security treaty with the United States culminated in the first serious crisis in post-war society. Often fought out with astonishing brutality, the social struggles of the time rooted in a generational conflict find their way into the films in a myriad of ways. Sometimes they are addressed explicitly via filmed demonstrations, but they more commonly appear in an indirect manner: conveyed by the nihilism of youthful vagabonds, the violent atmosphere of seedy nightclubs or expressed through the breakdown of the established cinematic language. Whether with big, rough gestures or seamless elegance, these films do away with every chain link Japanese cinema had imposed upon its images.
The retrospective focuses on a single year and presents ten productions of the studio made in 1960. The early works of all five "New Wave" directors at Shōchiku make up the core of the program, including, alongside Ōshima, Shinoda and Yoshida, the nowadays forgotten Takahashi Osamu and Tamura Tsutomu. Two films by Shōchiku greats Ozu and Kinoshita complement the program. Not only does this confrontation allow for an observation of generational gaps displayed with polemical severity, it enables a consideration of the continuities between the generations of Japanese filmmakers. Just as the new cinema inevitably contains traces of what came before it, a closer look shows that the societal and aesthetic turning point has also left its mark on the "people's modernist" Kinoshita and even the "well-balanced" old master Ozu.

Shōchiku New Wave, the fifth and, for the moment, last part of Lukas Foerster and Hannes Brühwiler's "Kino-Atlas" series has been realized in cooperation with the Japanese Foundation and the Japanese Embassy in Vienna.
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