Nagisa Oshima and Landscape Theory

Nagisa Oshima and Landscape Theory

Landscape Theory

Nagisa Oshima and Landscape Theory

Free admission; limited seating available by RSVP

March 27, 2023, 7pm
Pratt Institute
200 Willoughby Ave
Brooklyn, New York 11205

Join us at Pratt Institute on Monday, March 27 at 7pm for a screening of Nagisa Oshima’s The Man Who Left His Will on Film (1970, 94 minutes) followed by a conversation between Go Hirasawa, and Ethan Spigland.

The Man Who Left His Will on Film (Tokyo senso sengo hiwa, 1970) is one of Nagisa Oshima’s most formally radical and reflexive films. An incisive meditation on the failure of the post-1968 left, it’s at once a revealing self-portrait, an existential puzzle, and a radiograph of a nation. A member of a high school cinema club commits suicide, leaving his will in the form of a film. The other members of the group try to understand his suicide by scrutinizing the footage. However they find that the film consists only of shots of everyday landscapes, mostly ordinary images of Tokyo. Considered the most enigmatic film of Oshima’s oeuvre, The Man Who Left His Will on Film provoked various debates, ranging from those based on shot-by-shot analysis, to those invoking psychoanalytic theory. Despite the fact that Oshima himself did not engage in the landscape theory debate, this film came to be regarded as landscape cinema’s signature film. This was partially due to the fact that Adachi’s AKA: Serial Killer was not screened in public for a long time after its production, due to internal disputes among those involved in its production. This screening constitutes the fourth event of the Landscape Theory: Post-1968 Radical Cinema in Japan program curated by Go Hirasawa and Ethan Spigland.

The program is co-presented with e-flux Screening Room, and co-sponsored by the Japan Foundation.

Nagisa Oshima, The Man Who Left His Will on Film (1970, 94 minutes)
Endo, a young activist filmmaker, leaps to his death while being chased by the police. A friend of the deceased militant, Motoki, becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth about Endo’s death, and uses the enigmatic footage that Endo left in his camera—seemingly random, apparently meaningless shots of Tokyo rooftops and streets—to reconstruct the journey that led to his fatal leap. Motoki’s quest leads him first into a sexual fixation on Endo’s girlfriend, and ultimately to an abandonment of the notion of self. Did Endo in fact truly exist, or was he an invention or alter ego of Motoki?

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Landscape, Japan, Experimental Film, Death
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Landscape Theory: Post-1968 Radical Cinema in Japan

Uncompromisingly iconoclastic, Nagisa Oshima (1932-2013) was one of the most politically driven filmmakers of his generation. After an early involvement with the student protest movement at the prestigious Kyoto University, Oshima joined Shochiku Studios as an apprentice, quickly rising in rank to become a director. His third feature Night and Fog in Japan (1960), an experimental elegy to the failed student-led protest movement, was immediately pulled from theatrical distribution by Shochiku. Disillusioned with studio policies, Oshima broke away to form his own independent production company in 1965. Moving away from party politics, he increasingly turned towards a broader critique of Japanese history and national identity. He was especially interested in dissecting the contradictions and tensions of postwar westernized society. A restless experimental and self-questioning drive led Oshima to invent different styles for most of his films, from the long sequence-shots of Night and Fog in Japan, to the fast and disorienting cutting of films like Violence at Noon (1966) and The Man Who Left His Will on Film (1970).

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