Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Zen & Violence

NYC Japan Society's monthly film series Zen & Its Opposite: Essential (& Turbulent) Japanese Art House showcases some of the best classical films of Japanese cinema. Based on the Six Planes of Existence in Wheel of Life (Bhavacakra), the film series highlights five Planes, (excluding the Deva/God Realm, Blissful State) with five distinctive films representing each plane:

Ashura/Demigod Realm
is represented by Kihachi Okamoto's bloody samurai epic Sword of Doom (1966). Ashura is filled with jealousy, struggle and combat stemming from being envious of Deva Realm. As Tatsuya Nakadai's merciless swordman hacks away in a violent purgatory, the film is a perfect match.


Masaki Kobayashi
's stunning 1965 Cannes Palm d'Or winner Kwaidan is Manusya: the Human Realm plagued by passion, desire, doubt and pride.

Tiryag-yoni a.k.a. Animal Realm is reflected in Onibaba (1964, dir. Kaneto Shindo), a gritty tale of survival and animal lust in feudal era Japan.


Kon Ichikawa
's anti-war masterpiece Fires on the Plane (1959) represents Preta: Hungry Ghost Realm. Perhaps the most fitting one for its respective plane- the marooned Japanese soldiers in the Philippines walk the plain like zombies, slowly dying of starvation and resorting to cannibalism, looking for the salvation in something as insignificant as a distant bonfire.

(1960), a theatrical, surreal depiction of Hell by the father of Japanese horror Nobuo Nakagawa is Naraka, a rebirth based on strong states of hatred cultivated in previous lives.

It's a rare opportunity to see these classic Japanese films on the big screen. This is an event not to be missed!

The Japan Society's Zen & Its Opposite: Essential (& Turbulent) Japanese Art House kicks off with Kwaidan on October 15th at 7:30 PM, and continues through February 18th, 2011. For tickets and more information please visit Japan society


Cat People (1942) - Tourneur
Another Tourneur atmospheric slice of cinematic pulp that is way too beautiful, sophisticated and mysterious for what the genre really deserves. Amazing how much he can accomplish with so little. The settings- dark alley, architecture firm office, indoor swimming pool are ripe for showcasing delicious noirish lighting. The eerie mood permeates into the thin premise and elevates it to something more than a ludicrous story about the supernatural. I'd love to get the Val Lewton box set for Christmas.