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	Image: Manji © 1964 Kadokawa Pictures

Japanese Film Festival classics program 2018

Passion and obsession

Japanese Film Festival Classics at the Art Gallery of NSW presents a selection of films adapted from novels by celebrated authors such as Junichiro Tanizaki to Kyoka Izumi. With works by cinematic masters such as Kenji Mizoguchi and Yoshishige Yoshida, these films depict passion and obsession in varying shades of eroticism ranging from melodramatic romance to fraught love affairs. Beneath the drama, Passion and obsession also offers us glimpses into different faces of Japan throughout the decades – from star-crossed lovers divided by class in the Meiji era to early modern feminists swimming against the tide of society.

This free classics program is a satellite event of the annual Japanese Film Festival. The festival’s main program is a ticketed event, which screens at Event Cinemas, George Street in November and offers the best in new release, contemporary Japanese cinema.

Presented by the Japan Foundation, Sydney and made possible through the support of the Japan Foundation Film Library.

Image: Manji © 1964 Kadokawa Pictures

3—31 October 2018
See listing for details


Films start at the advertised time. Doors open 30 minutes before. Tickets are issued at the Domain Theatre one hour before. Latecomers not admitted.

All films screen in Japanese with English subtitles

Japanese Film Festival website

Location: Domain Theatre

Japanese Film Festival The Japan Foundation

The pornographers

Dir: Shohei Imamura 1966
128 mins 35mm B&W
R (18+)
© 1966 Nikkatsu
Even though pornographic filmmaker Subu is constantly threatened by the police and local gangsters, he still sees his work as a drop of sunshine in a repressed society. He hustles to stay alive in Japan’s supposed post-war economic miracle while supporting his lover Haru, in the hopes of winning her children’s approval. Darkly humorous and satirical, Imamura’s comical treatment of social taboos shocked audiences in 1966 and its discourse remains fresh even in 2018. Based on the novel by Akiyuki Nosaka.


Wednesday 3 October 2018 7:15pm – 9:30pm

Saturday 6 October 2018 2pm – 4:15pm


Dir: Kon Ichikawa 1956
112 mins 35mm Colour
© 1956 Kadokawa Pictures
Kon Ichikawa’s first colour film is a story of two ladies in a cut-throat competition to reign over Nihonbashi, Tokyo’s premier geisha district. Their rivalry grows fiercer when a handsome young doctor becomes the object of their affections. Despite their messy love triangle, the end goal for these modern superwomen is not romance, but to be Queen among geisha. Originally written by Kyoka Izumi, Ichikawa transforms the melodramatic premise into a decadent and intriguing film.


Wednesday 10 October 2018 2pm – 3:58pm

Wednesday 10 October 2018 7:15pm – 9:13pm

Okoto and Sasuke

Dir: Yasujiro Shimazu 1935
110 mins 16mm B&W
© 1935 Shochiku Co, Ltd
Love develops between Okoto, a blind koto virtuoso, and her devoted manservant, Sasuke. There is nothing Sasuke will not do for Okoto, even if it means leaping into darkness himself. Based on Junichiro Tanizaki’s novel A portrait of Shunkin, Shimazu takes a subtle and restrained approach to directing an otherwise melodramatic story. Playing Okoto is Kinuyo Tanaka, the prolific star of Japanese cinema’s golden age.


Saturday 13 October 2018 2pm – 3:53pm

Wednesday 17 October 2018 2pm – 3:53pm

Manji: the goddess of mercy

Dir: Yasuzo Masumura 1964
90 mins 35mm Colour
R (18+)
© 1964 Kadokawa Pictures
Manji starts with Sonoko, a wealthy bored housewife who enrols in art classes to pass time. At school Sonoko meets Mitsuko, a young heiress, and quickly becomes attached to her. Their budding friendship turns into a love affair, unexpectedly taking them down a path of madness. Director Masumura, whose works often focus on destructive obsession, smoothly navigates a complicated web of love triangles and hidden desires in this on screen adaptation of Junichiro Tanizaki’s novel Quicksand.


Wednesday 17 October 2018 7:15pm – 8:52pm

Saturday 20 October 2018 2pm – 3:37pm

Kagero-za (Heat Haze Theatre)

Dir: Seijun Suzuki 1981
139 mins 35mm Colour
R (18+)
© 1981 presented by LittleMore Co, Ltd
Set in the Taisho Era (1912-1926), playwright Matsuzaki encounters a mysterious woman named Shinako. He is taken in by her beauty but their romantic rendezvous comes with a dark foreboding when Matsuzaki realises that Shinako is the spitting image of his patron’s deceased wife. Directed by Seijun Suzuki, focus of the 2017 JFF Classics, the visually stunning Kagero-za takes audiences on a sensual and surreal exploration of the human psyche. Based on a gothic short story by Kyoka Izumi.


Sunday 21 October 2018 2pm – 4:26pm

A geisha

Dir: Kenji Mizoguchi 1953
84 mins 35mm B&W
© 1953 Kadokawa Pictures
Young Eiko escapes her lecherous uncle by seeking refuge in an okiya, a lodging house. There she determinedly pleads with the esteemed geisha, Miyoharu, to take her on as an apprentice. Struggling to keep afloat in the post-war economy, the two women strive to excel in their profession as dignified artists, however, they cannot escape the cruel reality of an industry built on lies. Based on the novel Gionbayashi by Matsutaro Kawaguchi.


Wednesday 24 October 2018 2pm – 3:31pm

Wednesday 24 October 2018 7:15pm – 8:46pm

Juvenile jungle (Crazed fruit)

Dir: Ko Nakahira 1956
86 mins 35mm B&W
© 1956 Nikkatsu
Brothers Haru and Natsu are spending yet another summer by the sea. Their endless days, filled with gambling, swimming and drinking, take an eventful turn when they meet and fall for the same woman, Eri. Juvenile jungle, written by novelist-turned-politician Shintaro Ishihara, became a cultural phenomenon soon after its release. It portrayed the sexual revolution of Japan’s disillusioned and privileged postwar youth, often referred to as the taiyozoku or sun tribe generation. Actor Masahiko Tsugawa, who rose to stardom after Juvenile jungle, passed away on 4 August 2018 at the age of 78. Vale Masahiko Tsugawa.


Sunday 28 October 2018 2pm – 3:26pm

The affair

Dir: Yoshishige Yoshida 1967
98 mins 35mm B&W
© 1967 Shochiku Co, Ltd
As a young woman, Oriko (played by prolific actor Mariko Okada) condemned her widowed mother for openly pursuing relationships with younger men. After her mother passes away, she finds herself in an unhappy, loveless marriage and begins to understand her mother’s actions. The affair, based on Masaaki Tachihara’s novel, depicts female characters exploring their own desires and seeking to define their own sexuality. This visually stunning example of Japanese New Wave cinema is also one of numerous collaborations between real-life couple Yoshida and Okada, who later turned to producing films.


Wednesday 31 October 2018 2pm – 3:44pm

Wednesday 31 October 2018 7:15pm – 8:59pm