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The only Japanese director to twice win the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Imamura was a crucial, yet ambiguous, figure in the Japanese new wave. He learned his trade under Yasujiro Ozu, but quickly rejected Ozu's restraint and quiet eloquence, bringing instead an anthropological eye and a previously unseen taste for the irreverent. His films depict the extremities of Japanese life, their characters rarely more than an insect's crawl away from jungle law and pig-sty madness. His remains a unique cinematic voice.
With support from The Japan Foundation, The Daiwa Foundation and UWE Film Studies Research Group. Film prints supplied by the Japan Foundation.
The Ballad of Narayama (18)
Thu 15 Oct 7.30pm
In an isolated mountain region, austere village laws to ensure survival dictate that, despite her good health, matriarch Orin must shortly ascend the sacred summit of Narayama where her soul must be laid to rest like all who turn 70. But before she goes, she has much family business to attend to. One of the greatest Japanese films: a haunting, poignant meditation on human nature, existence and death that won Imamura his first Palme d'Or.
Dir. Shohei Imamura, Japan, 1983, 2h 10m, Subtitled
Intentions of Murder (CTBA)
Fri 16 Oct 7.30pm
Bold, expansive and intriguing, this tale of a low-caste household drudge who runs off with the burglar who breaks into her house and assaults her, marks the most complete consolidation of the themes that inform Imamura's initial cycle of features in the late 50s and early 60s. Beautifully photographed and technically perfect, a faultlessly constructed model of sophistication.
Dir. Shohei Imamura, Japan, 1964, 2h 25m, Subtitled
Pigs and Battleships (CTBA)
Sat 17 Oct 6.30pm
A cruelly comic movie, set in Yokosuka, a coastal city dominated by vice and a US military base, where gangs kill each other over the right to control the black market in US Army food scraps - here, Imamura emerges as Japan's incarnation of Buñuel, omnisciently satiric and utterly cynical. Irreverent and unabashedly human: a defining self-portrait of Japan in the post-war moment.
Dir. Shohei Imamura, Japan, 1961, 1h 48m, Subtitled
Black Rain (PG)
Sat 17 Oct 8.45pm
Imamura's deeply affecting study of the uncalculated tragedy of nuclear holocaust, focuses on a couple trying to marry off their niece after Hiroshima. In contrast to Imamura's usual subversively bawdy cinema, this is a spare and tonally muted masterpiece of dignity and human resilience, its carefully composed monochrome reminding us that Imamura began his career as an assistant to Ozu.
Dir. Shohei Imamura, Japan, 1989, 2h 3m, Subtitled
The Profound Desire of the Gods (CTBA)
Sun 18 Oct 2.30pm
A crystallization of Imamura's ideas, transported to an island so secluded its inhabitants have evolved into animalistic, incestuous nutcases. Into this hothouse, full of superstition and hungry wildlife, comes a mainland civil engineer, looking for a fresh water source so a factory can be built. A hair-raising, richly imagined epic, filthy with unforgettable images and, by its end, beautifully mysterious.
Dir. Shohei Imamura, Japan, 1968, 2h 52m, Subtitled
The Insect Woman (CTBA)
Sun 18 Oct 6.30pm
A beetle labouring up a tiny mound opens the film, symbol of a woman named Tomé's slow creep through poverty, and exploitation to become one of Tokyo's top brothel keepers under the repressive influence of a patriarchal society. This objective yet sympathetic portrait of Imamura's archetype - the sensual, primal, and strong-willed heroine - celebrates the resilient soul of a marginalized national identity.
Dir. Shohei Imamura, Japan, 1963, 2h 3m, Subtitled
The Eel (18) & Vengeance Is Mine (18)
Sun 8 Nov 2.30pm
This quirky, surreal and affecting film, following the attempts of a convicted murderer to reintegrate himself into normal life - with the help of his eel friend - after a prison sentence for murdering his philandering wife, won Imamura his second Palme d'Or. A flash of quiet brilliance that resonates long after the images have faded from the screen. Dir. Shohei Imamura, Japan, 1997, 1h 57m, Subtitled
Based on the true story of a cold-blooded sociopath, this morally-ambivalent story unfolds using the killer's confessions and reconstructed testimonies to retrace his past in an attempt to discover what made this monster. Exploring the problems inherent with reconstructing real-life events within a fictional format, Imamura once again proves himself ahead of the game.
Dir. Shohei Imamura, Japan, 1979, 2h 20m, Subtitled