"Repertory Cinema 2014 - New Japanese Cinema in 1980s" to rediscover acclaimed directors' classics (with photos)

     Acclaimed Japanese filmmakers including Kuroki Kazuo, Yanagimachi Mitsuo, Morita Yoshimitsu, Hasegawa Kazuhiko, Kitano Takeshi and Hayashi Kaizo made their names in the 1970s and 80s using distinctive directorial styles and features in their works. Their themes ranged from serious social issues to youthful angst, starring idols of the times such as Yakushimaru Hiroko and Sawada Kenji. These new works of bygone days have become classics for the new generation.

     Presented by the Film Programmes Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), in collaboration with the Japan Foundation and supported by the Kawakita Memorial Film Institute, "Repertory Cinema 2014 - New Japanese Cinema in 1980s" is curated by Law Wai-ming and features more than 20 fascinating and award-winning works by various emerging Japanese directors in the 1970s and 80s. The screenings will be held at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) and the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum from October 3 to November 30.   

     To complement the screenings, curator Law and film critics Ka Ming and Lai Ho will host a seminar titled "New Japanese Cinema in 1980s" at 4.30pm on October 25 at the HKFA Cinema. It will be conducted in Cantonese with free admission. Also, the director of "To Sleep so as to Dream", Hayashi Kaizo, will meet the audience at 1.30pm on November 15 at the screening of the HKFA.  

     In addition, the Film Programmes Office will organise a series of master study courses to enable audiences to better understand Japanese cinema in the 1980s and its associated social background. Lecturer of the Department of Sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Mr Cheung Yuk-man, and film critics William Lau and Long Tin, will conduct courses titled "The peace and prosperity that everyone wants to have and not to have: a dormant 1980s Japan" (October 4), "Japanese film and society in the 1980s" (October 11) and "Post revolutionary sentiments: Japanese Cinema in the 1980s" (October 18) respectively. The courses will be held in Function Room (AC2) on Level 4 of the Administration Building, Hong Kong Cultural Centre at 2pm. All courses will be conducted in Cantonese and the fee per session is $80.

     Big film studios were faced with stark difficulties in operation during the 1970s and 80s, a time when newcomers could no longer presume to work their way up from studio apprenticeships. The new directors who managed to enter the industry came from very diverse backgrounds. Some began with the "pink film" industry, some started their career as documentarians, advertising practitioners and independent filmmakers, and others even changed their careers from drawing graphic novels to filmmaking. These new filmmakers created various noteworthy works, leading to a global rediscovery of Japanese cinema.  

     Higashi Yoichi's feminist series begins with "No More Easy Going" (1979), which depicts the life of a Waseda University student and vividly embodies the joys and sorrows of the new generation. Momoi Kaori's charming performance in the film earned her multiple best actress awards. Another feminist film by Higashi, "Natsuko" (1980) is the story of an ordinary clerk becoming famous after her photo-shoot comes to light, showcasing the diverse aesthetics of female beauty.
     Working his way up from assistant director, Yanagimachi Mitsuo won Best New Director at the 1st Yokohama Film Festival with his debut film "The 19 Year-Old's Map" (1979), featuring a paper boy who experiences the strangeness of his clients, records their names on his own map and blackmails them one by one by phone. His second film, "Farewell to the Land" (1982), depicts the impact of industralisation on rural society and won the No. 2 Film Award and Best Actor at Kinejun Top 10 in 1982.
     As a certified physician with a background in independent filmmaking, Omori Kazuki used his own medical school experience in "Hipokuratesutachi" (1980) to showcase the inner feelings of medical students with help from heavyweight cameos such as Suzuki Seijun and legendary manga artist Tezuka Osamu.

     Adapted from an award-winning comic, the high school drama classic "Dreamy Fifteen" (1980) was the first film directed by Somai Shinji and was also the first starring role for idol Yakushimaru Hiroko, and won Best New Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actress at the 2nd Yokohama Film Festival. After a string of youth hit films, Somai filmed "The Catch" (1983), depicting the life of a fisherman.

     Negishi Kichitaro's "The Far Thunder" (1981) highlights the struggles of traditional farming society under the effect of urbanisation. The film won the No. 2 Film Award at the Kinejun Top 10 in 1981 and took various awards at the 3rd Yokohama Film Festival including Best Director. Also directed by Negishi, "The House of Wedlock" (1986) was a new take on the family drama genre featuring women's independence, winning Best Film at the 8th Yokohama Film Festival.

     Reflecting the distinctive Osaka style of the 1970s, "Empire of Punk" (1981) was Izutsu Kazuyuki's film debut, and presents a gang turf war with new techniques. The film won the New Directors Award of the Directors Guild of Japan in 1981. Starting his career with independent films and commercials, Obayashi Nobuhiko made the comedy, "I Are You, You Am Me" (1982) based on a children's sex education novel, in which two childhood friends' bodies are swapped mysteriously. It won Best Film at the 4th Yokohama Film Festival.

     Oguri Kohei's debut film "Muddy River" (1981) won the No. 1 Film Award and Best Director at the Kinejun Top 10 in 1981, as well as the Silver Award at the 12th Moscow International Film Festival. Adapted from an award-winning novel, the film sees the cruel world through the eyes of three children. Also an adaption, "For Kayako" (1984) is based on a novel by a Korean author, realistically depicting the lives and problems of Koreans living in Japan.   

     After directing a series of pink films, Takahashi Banmei made a career change with "Tattoo" (1982), the true story of a youngster pursuing his personal goals. The film won Best Director and Best Actor at the 4th Yokohama Film Festival. Fukasaku Kinji's unusual heartfelt drama "Fall Guy" (1982) features the comic interaction of the "little people" against the backdrop of the Japanese silver screen. It won several awards at the Kinejun Top 10 in 1982 including No. 1 film and Best Director.

     Morita Yoshimitsu started by making independent films, and made his name with the wry humour of "Family Game" (1983), in which a weird family tutor triggers a series of hilarious incidents. The film not only won No. 1 film, Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Kinejun Top 10 in 1983, but was also selected as seventh of the Best 200 Japanese Films in 2009. In another Morita film, "Main Theme" (1984), Yakushimaru Hiroko made a departure from her usual "idol" image to become a recognised actress.

     "Mah-jong Rambler" (1984) is the first film directed by former graphic novelist Wada Makoto. It is an oddly funny gambling film about making friends by playing mah-jong, and won Best Film at the 6th Yokohama Film Festival. Ishii Sogo's "The Crazy Family" (1984) uses the popular idiom of the time, "reverse thrust", to describe a dysfunctional family and society, creating a satire of the ideal life of the Japanese.

     Hayashi Kaizo's remarkable first film, "To Sleep so as to Dream" (1987) is ahead of its time in creating a silent movie-like technique with all dialogue written as intertitles. The film centres on a trip to a "dream factory" at the turn of century. Kaneko Shusuke's "Summer Vacation 1999" (1988) uses four girls to play four beautiful boys involved in a romantic entanglement, illustrating a perfect adaption of the aesthetics of the Boy Love manga.

     Kitano Takeshi's directorial debut "Violent Cop" (1989) earned him Best Director at the 11th Yokohama Film Festival. His unique style of mingling beautiful and quiet compositions with fast-paced violent action quickly established Kitano as an auteur in world cinema. In his critically acclaimed piece, "Rikyu" (1989), Teshigahara Hiroshi creates a luxurious setting to portray an opulent tea palace, utilising real antique props from that era. Other than local awards, the film also won the C.I.C.A.E. Award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1990.

     In addition to the new works of the 1980s, the retrospective will also feature classics of the 60s and 70s for reference, namely Kuroki Kazuo's road movie "Cuban mon Amour" (1969), his "Warming up for Festival" (1975) on the pain and loss of youngsters in pursuing their dreams, and "The Atomic War - Lost Love" (1978) which focuses on a nuclear accident; Hasegawa Kazuhiko's debut film "The Youth Killer" (1976), which conveys the confusion of a generation and the transformation of the countryside, and after which he was acclaimed as the hope of Japanese cinema in the 70s, and his "The Man Who Stole the Sun" (1979), featuring a high school teacher making DIY atomic bomb, depicting an oppressed and desolate generation.

     "No More Easy Going", "Natsuko", "The 19 Year-Old's Map", "Farewell to the Land", "The Catch", "Empire of Punk", "Tattoo", "Violent Cop", "Warming up for Festival", "The Atomic War - Lost Love" and "The Youth Killer" are classified as Category III, meaning that only persons aged 18 and above will be admitted. "Cuban mon Amour" is in Spanish, English and Japanese while the other films are in Japanese. "The 19 Year-Old's Map", "Family Game" and "The Youth Killer" have Chinese and English subtitles; "Natsuko" and "Hipokuratesutachi" have Spanish and English subtitles and "Cuban mon Amour" has English and French subtitles. The other films have English subtitles only.

     Tickets for the screenings and master study courses are now available at URBTIX. Screening tickets are priced at $55. Half-price concessionary tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities and their minders, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Credit card bookings can be made at 2111 5999, or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk. Detailed programme information can be found in programme brochures and leaflets at all URBTIX outlets. For programme enquiries, please call 2734 2900, or browse the webpage at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2014rc/2014rc_index.html.

Ends/Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Issued at HKT 19:40