Death of a Cinematic Genius: Nagisa Oshima, 1932-2013

January 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Nagisa Oshima in the 1960s

Nagisa Oshima in the 1960s

It was with shock and more than a little sadness that I read of Nagisa Oshima’s death today. Though he forever will be associated with the youthful themes of the Japanese New Wave, he was 80 and apparently had been in poor health since a stroke suffered in 1996.

Oshima’s films were featured in a major retrospective at the American Cinematheque in 2009, about which I wrote this piece:

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/nagisa-oshima-and-japan-in-the-sixties/

During his fiery career, Oshima broke cultural and censorship barriers in Japan and abroad. The product of an affluent and aristocratic Kyoto family, he studied law and had every reason to protect the status quo, both politically and artistically. Yet he was heavily influenced by the Japanese student protests of the 1960s, and by leftist politics in general. As a filmmaker, he claimed, “My hatred for Japanese cinema includes absolutely all of it.” He meant it. Oshima had no use for the poetic films of Yasujiro Ozu (on which he got his start as an assistant). He also claimed the goal of his films was “to force the Japanese to look in the mirror.”

There are no equivalents to Oshima among younger Japanese filmmakers: there don’t have to be. In challenging censorship, artistic mores and the very basis of filmmaking, he blazed a trail that made their path smoother, though probably less memorable. RIP.

A link to the New York Times obituary: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/16/movies/nagisa-oshima-iconoclastic-filmmaker-dies-at-80.html?hp&_r=0

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