prog: 2004

Japanese Red Cinema: around Masao Adachi

Kôji Wakamatsu, Nagisa Ôshima, Eric Baudelaire

Japan in the 60’s was a place marked by violent protest movements: opposition against the post-war politics grew even more, and a new left made up of various anti-establishment groups was born. The renewal in 1960 of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan (known as Anpo) is seen by many as a new step of American neocolonialism in Japan, as well as the latter’s entrance into the imperialist mindset of the US and its ultimate transformation into a military base during the Vietnam war. This event catalyses a social struggle, and the flames of dissent are fanned once Anpo is to be extended at the end of the decade: clashes with the police and extreme right groups are rife, and armed revolutionary groups emerge to radicalise the effort.
The revolution in also present in cultural circles through a wave of artistic movements deeply rooted in the social climate which explore new territories and break free of the mould. In the film world, this meant a questioning of the rigid system put in place by the major studios. Alternatives arise and with them a new generation of filmmakers who innovated not only through socially- conscious documentaries but also in the field of erotic cinema. The combination of oftentimes violent social tension and freedom of experimentation bred a dynamic form of cinema, marked by its times but still wholly relevant today. We will be exploring this period through the lens of a chief figure of those movements, Masao Adachi, in conjunction with a retrospective of the works of Kôji Wakamatsu at the Cinematek.

This programme was created with the help and guidance of Dick Stegewerns and Gô Hirasawa, in collaboration with the Cinematek and with the support of Marcel vzw and VDFC.

Author, critic, theorist, screenwriter, actor and director, Masao Adachi is a freeform artist whose work has served the purpose of creative research as well as political action, which has resulted in several decades spent in hiding followed by a stint in prison. His spirit of independence and radicalism contributed to his falling off the Japanese cinema radar until recently. As the works of his contemporary Wakamatsu were internationally restored, Adachi’s name has logically resurfaced and his oeuvre finally recognised.
Adachi is a man of his times, incarnating the revolutionary avant-garde spirit of the political and artistic context that formed him. He studied cinema and directed his first movies through experimental collectives that he himself started. He also became political during the student protests and saw in the film medium a weapon of social upheaval. In 1966 he became acquainted with Wakamatsu, with whom he collaborated extensively through the years, and also took part in some of Ôshima’s films. In 1974, after having travelled through Palestine with Wakamatsu, Adachi decided to extend the film revolution into the armed revolution and left Japan in order to join the Palestinian cause as a member of the Japanese Red Army. He lived in clandestine hiding until his arrest in Beirut in 1997 and spent three years in prison until his extradition to Japan. He now lives in Tokyo and can never leave the country. In 2006 he directed a film inspired by his experiences and has most recently collaborated with French artist and filmmaker Eric Baudelaire.

School Girl Guerrilla

女学生ゲリラ [Jogakusei gerira]

Masao Adachi, 1969, JP, 16mm, ov st fr, 73

Three high school girls plot to steal the school’s diplomas and sabotage their graduation ceremony. Using their charm to strip soldiers from their uniforms and weapons, they retreat into the mountains to regroup, making hostages and slaves of intruders. While negotiations with the school are set to begin, the group’s internal strains begin to take their toll on the operation.
Following his post-surrealist experiments and theoretical research, Adachi turns the page once again with this incursion into the Pink/rebel teenage girl trope, a genre which will become more popular in the years to come. Out of all of Adachi’s films, "School Girl Guerrilla" is the one the resembles Wakamatsu’s work the most, the latter being the producer of this film. The style and the black and white cinematography with occasional hints of colour (used mainly to highlight nudity) are noteworthy elements, as well as the latent political critique which presaged the student revolution’s tilt towards armed conflict.

24.05 > 22:00 + 01.06 > 18:00
5€ / 3,5€

A.K.A. Serial Killer en

略称・連続射殺魔 [Ryakushô renzoku shasatsuma]

Masao Adachi, Mamoru Sasaki, Masao Matsuda, Yû Yamazaki, Masayuki Nonomura & Susumu Iwabuchi, 1969, JP, 35mm, ov st ang, 86

A film-essay based on a news item wherein 19 year-old Norio Nagayama murders four people without any apparent motive, Adachi and his fellow filmmakers build this story around the "landscape theory", which posits that all landscapes are fundamentally linked to a figure of power, rendering Japan a toxic place that can drive sane men to madness.
The film is composed of a series of views and landscapes that the young man could have been exposed to and which may have insidiously shaped his worldview and provoked his criminal acts. While the film does not directly address social upheaval, it points out the symbols and structures of power which are omnipresent and which inevitably elicit a call to action...

16.05 > 22:00 + 25.05 > 20:00
5€ / 3,5€


幽閉者 テロリスト [Yûheisha – terorisuto]

Masao Adachi, 2006, JP, video, ov st ang, 113

More than 30 years after his previous directorial effort, Adachi brings us a film about psychological digression loosely adapted from a text by Auguste Blanqui and no doubt inspired by Adachi’s personal experiences. M., a member of the Japanese Red Army, is the only surviving perpetrator of the suicide operation at the Lod airport in Israel in 1972. He begins to lose his composure during his incarceration and begins to see the spectres of the revolutionary ideal in his daily hallucinations. Instead of partaking in the stigma that often marks terrorist prisoners detained in Israel, "Prisoner/Terrorist" is first and foremost a brave exploration of the human soul’s meandering into a state of permanent revolution. With this film, Adachi completes Wakamatsu’s "United Red Army", who also makes a discreet appearance alongside his favoured musician, Jim O’Rourke.

17.05 > 22:00 + 25.05 > 18:00
5€ / 3,5€

Eric Baudelaire, 2011, FR, super8 > video, ov ang & jp st fr & ang, 66

Fusako Shigenobu left Japan in 1971 to found the Japanese Red Army - a terrorist fringe group dedicated to supporting the Palestinian cause - and lived in Lebanon for 30 years. During Adachi’s own exile in Beirut, he met Shigenobu, and bonded with her not only over the experience of being far from home, but also over their shared fate of coming back to Japan without the possibility of ever being able to leave.
Eric Baudelaire explores the shuttle between Tokyo and Beirut and interviews May Shigenobu - Fusako’s daughter, who would only discover Japan following her mother’s arrest - and Adachi himself, touching on their respective trajectories towards the construction of their identities. The film also breaches the subject of imagery and the imaginary, comparing May’s absolute lack of visual trace of her origins and Adachi’s constant visualisation through his films which he lost during the conflict. Baudelaire makes use of archival images and film, especially Super 8 excerpts, which were shot in Tokyo and Beirut and which evoke Adachi’s landscape theory. Baudelaire’s role in the voyage eventually led him one step further, towards the creation of "The Ugly One".

Eric Baudelaire will be at the Nova May 4th to present his films and to discuss his collaborations with Adachi. He will be accompanied by Juliette Navis, lead actress in "The Ugly One".

04.05 > 18:00 + 23.05 > 22:00
5€ / 3,5€

The Ugly One


Eric Baudelaire, 2013, FR-LB, HD, ar & ja st fr & ang, 101

Following his first meeting with Masao Adachi, Eric Baudelaire takes on a new creative challenge, responding to Adachi’s desire to return to Lebanon without the possibility of physically carrying out his wish. In a unique take on the process of filmmaking, with Adachi taking on the script from Japan and Baudelaire transforming it into moving images, the directors produce a film essay about commitment and life, including romantic life, within the revolutionary factions.

Eric Baudelaire will be at the Nova May 4th to present his films and to discuss his collaborations with Adachi. He will be accompanied by Juliette Navis, lead actress in "The Ugly One".

11.04 > 22:00 + 20.04 > 20:00 + 25.04 > 22:00 + 04.05 > 20:30
5€ / 3,5€

In 1966, Masao Adachi crossed paths with Kôji Wakamatsu, a young filmmaker who had already made a name for himself with his self-produced challenging erotic films, thanks to his aesthetic prowess and noteworthy productivity - at times churning out close to 10 films a year- as well as a diplomatic scandal which added a tinge of notoriety to his reputation. Adachi was drawn to the rebellious yet accessible potential of the Pink genre, through which subversion is achieved by using nudity to subtly dissimulate a larger political message. While Wakamatsu was already exploiting the concept, his collaboration with Adachi managed to deepen his political engagement. United by their unruly anti-establishment rules, Wakamatsu and Adachi complemented each other to perfection and lived the revolution in their respective manner: Wakamatsu with the idea that film was a way to "kill cops without going to prison", and Adachi deciding that there was no need to choose between a gun and a camera when you have two hands at your disposal.


The cinema of Masao Adachi & Kôji Wakamatsu

by Gô Hirasawa, Dick Stegewerns & Masao Adachi [in English]

Cinema Nova, in collaboration with the Cinematek, welcomes two Japanese cinema specialists to a conference on Masao Adachi and Koji Wakamatsu, with the participation of Masao Adachi from Japan.
Gô Hirasawa is a researcher and professor at the Meiji-Gakuin University in Tôkyô, and is particularly interested in avant-garde and political movements in the experimental films of the 60’s and 70’s. He has written several works on Wakamatsu and Adachi.
Dick Stegewerns is an associate professor at the University of Oslo in the Modern & Contemporary Japanese Studies department.
Both lecturers regularly organise programmes focusing on Japanese cinema and significantly contributed to the conception of this cycle.

11.05 > 18:00

Sex Jack

性賊 [Seizoku]

Kōji Wakamatsu, 1970, JP, 35mm, ov st fr, 70

Like many other films of the period, "Sex Jack" opens with images of anti-Anpo protests. Filmed in black and white by Wakamatsu, the film follows a defeated militant group whose hideout has been discovered by the police, resulting in the arrest of their leader. A mysterious young thief helps them escape, and despite their initial distrust towards him, they manage to regroup around this marginal figure whose working background greatly differs from their own. Wakamatsu’s focus is, as usual, more on the human dynamics within the revolutionary group than on the revolution itself, highlighting failure, stupidity, rivalry, domination and sexual violence. Wakamatsu and his screenwriter Izuru Deguchi (Adachi’s pseudonym for the more subversive films) are a severe duo, pointing their criticism at the world and at those whose political sympathies they share.

10.05 > 20:00
5€ / 3,5€

Red Army-PFLP: Declaration of World War

赤軍-PFLP・世界戦争宣言 [Sekigun-PFLP·sekai sensō sengen]

Masao Adachi & Kōji Wakamatsu, 1971, JP, 16mm, ov st ang, 71

After visiting Palestinian camps in Lebanon and Jordan and spending time with Arab revolutionaries, Wakamatsu and Adachi test the "landscape theory" in foreign lands. The images filmed there will be Adachi’s basis for a radical film manifesto against disinformation, a propaganda tool for world revolution and a rare document which shows the battle from within its ranks. The film was excluded from traditional circuits, assimilating the broadcasting process into the guerilla mindset of discreet and calculated infiltration. The filmmakers improvised a series of screenings and organised a tour aboard the "red bus", which crossed Japan and went inland into Europe and later the Palestinian territories.

11.05 > 21:00
5€ / 3,5€

Ecstasy of the Angels

天使の恍惚 [Tenshi no kōkotsu]

Kôji Wakamatsu, 1972, JP, 35mm, ov st ang, 85

In 1970, following the defeat of the battle against the Anpo, the political movements that were once pillars of resistance began to dissolve. Small fringe groups such as the Red Army emerged, sweeping the scope of extreme political tendencies. In "Ecstasy of Angels", a revolutionary organisation (inspired by Auguste Blanqui’s "Société de saisons") is mired by internal turmoil, betrayal and ambient paranoia. "Ecstasy..." is a cocktail of revolt, sex, violence and dialectics, often simultaneously, in Wakamatsu’s incomparable style.
Shot right after their trip to Palestine, with a script by Adachi and the help of several members of the Red Army, the film was accused of inciting terrorism after its release coincided with several attacks, including the Asama hostage crisis of 1972. It was pulled from most theatres, with the notable exception of ATG’s Shinjuku Bunka, which would go on to support the film till the very end.

15.05 > 22:00
5€ / 3,5€

United Red Army

実録・連合赤軍 あさま山荘への道程 [Jitsuroku Rengô Sekigun : Asama sansô e no michi]

Kōji Wakamatsu, 2007, JP, 35mm, ov st fr, 190

While Kôji Wakamatsu never quit filmmaking, he was absent from the international scene until the 2008 release of "United Red Army". The three-hour fresco (with music by Jim O’Rourke) reconstructs a history of the revolutionary movements in Japan during the 60’s and 70’s, marking Wakamatsu’s return to political filmmaking. This unvarnished view of the upheavals strives to understand the motivations, evolutions and divisions within the groups behind them, from their genesis in the 1960’s to the dramatic hostage crisis in the Asama chalet in 1972. Wakamatsu also seeks to digest the national trauma that was caused by the fall of the Red Army, and the conflicts that their actions instilled within the once supportive Japanese populace.

22.05 > 20:00 + 01.06 > 20:00
5€ / 3,5€

Nagisa Ôshima, famed talent of the Japanese New Wave, is considered one of the most inventive and committed filmmakers of his generation. While he began as another cog in the system, he soon found himself struck by limitations - notably his own studio’s distribution ban on his film "Night and Fog in Japan". He shared with Wakamatsu, and even more so with Adachi, a passion for adventurous, anti-establishment cinema. He spent many nights in the Shinjuku bars with Adachi and collaborated with him in three projects: the two films presented in this cycle as well as "Diary of a Shinjuku Thief".

Three Resurrected Drunkards

帰って来たヨッパライ [Kaette Kita Yopparai]

Nagisa Ôshima, 1968, JP, 35mm, ov st ang, 80

Three young Japanese men freshly out of school go for a swim at the beach and discover in amused bewilderment that their clothes have been exchanged for Korean tunics. They pursue their adventures wearing their new costume, with two bloodthirsty Koreans at their heels.
With this film, Ôshima reveals his concern over the discrimination of the Korean minorities in Japan. In this pop comedy, co-written by Adachi (who also appears in the film in a minor role), Ôshima reminds viewers that it is indeed possible to treat sensitive social themes such as racism and illegal immigration with intelligence, humour and inventiveness.

17.05 > 20:00 + 23.05 > 20:00
5€ / 3,5€

Death By Hanging

絞死刑 [Kōshikei]

Nagisa Ôshima, 1968, JP, 35mm, ov st fr & nl, 117

In this blasting of capital punishment (still in vigour in Japan) and racist nationalism, Ôshima shows with humour and ferocity the hanging of a Korean youth charged with the rape and murder of Japanese women. The rituals framing the final moments of the soon-to-be hanged man are without aplomb - until the hanging itself, where even though the culprit has a noose around his neck, he is still breathing! Worse yet, he appears to have lost his memory and is now but a mere lamb. The Nippon code is stringent on this level: one cannot apply capital punishment to a man who has lost his mind. In order to remediate the situation, a small troupe forms in order to re-establish the man’s diabolical nature, so his hanging will be once again justified. We see Adachi in one of the main roles of the film - as a prison guard, no less.

24.05 > 20:00 + 30.05 > 22:00
5€ / 3,5€

lang: en
id_rubrique: 2008
prog: 2004
pos: aval