Close Up

12 - 31 July 2011: Theatre Scorpio: Japanese Independent and Experimental Cinema of the 1960s


Close-Up presents a programme of 1960s Japanese independent and experimental cinema to celebrate the range of activities at Shinjuku's legendary art space Theatre Scorpio for the first time in the UK. The programme includes films never before screened in the country or to an English-speaking audience, some brand new prints and freshly subtitled films to offer an engaging insight into a decade that was defined by political ferment and avant-garde activity.  

Named by Yukio Mishima after Kenneth Anger's film Scorpio Rising, Theatre Scorpio (Sasori-za) was a legendary underground art space beneath the Art Theatre Guild's Art Theatre Shinjuku Bunka. The venue quickly became a centre of activity for all corners of the 1960s arts scene, offering a platform for performance art, theatre, dance and screenings of avant-garde films. Although their autonomous voices were characterised by diversity in approach and style, the artists were united by their urge for individual expression and a desire for a space to share their ideas. Theatre Scorpio met their needs and became a nexus for their experiments.  

Programme 1: Studies in Movement: Experiments by Three Filmmakers

An Eater
Nobuhiko Obayashi & Kazutomo Fujino
1963 | 23 min | 16mm  

A satire similar to Luis Buñuel's darkly comic condemnations of bourgeois dinner rituals, Nobuhiko Obayashi co-directed An Eater with painter Kazutomo Fujino to point out the voracious greed of human behaviour. read more

Nobuhiko Obayashi
1964 | 15 min | 16mm  

Complexe employs stop-motion animation techniques on live-action footage generating jittery effects - its rapid-fire cutting become comically surreal. The film follows a suited man's walk through town where his digressions lead to a series of encounters and humorous happenings, in the style of Takahiko Iimura's Dance Party In The Kingdom Of Liliputread more

Nihon University Film Studies Club
1961 | 25 min | 16mm  

The 4th production of Nihon University Film Studies Club, Wan was led by Masao Adachi and was produced in the wake of the failure of student protests against the Anpo: US-Japan Security Treaty in 1960. read more

Yunbogi's Diary
Nagisa Oshima
1965 | 30 min | 16mm  

A lyrical and ethereal montage of still-images, Yunbogi's Diary is a collage-piece with darkly sombre undertones. The collection of photographs were taken by Oshima during his two-month research trip to South Korea in 1965 where he was astounded but strengthened by the poverty-stricken street-children in Seoul. read more

Programme 2: Motoharu Jonouchi: Avant-Garde Visions of 1960s Protest Movements

Nihon University Film Studies Club
1960 | 22 min | 16mm  

Along with Masao Adachi, Jonouchi was a member of the legendary Nihon University Film Studies Club where students collaborated to make films that have been cited as pioneering experimental films. Pupu, their third film as a unit, was led by Jonouchi and evokes an insight into the subject matters and stylistic flavours he will later come to favour. read more

Document 6.15
Motoharu Jonouchi
1961 | 19 min | 16mm  

A living space and film lab set up by Jonouchi and his collaborators, the VAN Film Research Centre were invited to make Document 6.15 for a demonstration event mourning the death of student protestor Michiko Kanba. Led by Jonouchi, the collaborative film was conceived as part of a performance with slides and live-sounds. read more

Motoharu Jonouchi
1965 | 19 min | 16mm  

Wols is the pseudonym for a German artist active in the early 20th century, Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, and Jonouchi meticulously filmed nearly fifty of his paintings to construct a cine-collage. The result is reminiscent of Alain Resnais' rendition of Pablo Picasso's Guernica, as both filmed interpretations refuse to provide the viewer with a full picture of the paintings, instead fragmenting and splintering the frame. read more

Tatsumi Hijikata
Motoharu Jonouchi
1967 | 1 min | 16mm  

The co-founder of Ankoku Butoh dance, Tatsumi Hijikata was an extremely significant figure in the Japanese art scene, his influence reaching beyond the realms of dance into other creative genres. Jonouchi, who at times had participated in butoh performances, offers a homage to his artistic mentor in an uncharacteristic documentation of dance. read more

Mass Collective Bargaining at Nihon University
Motoharu Jonouchi
1968 | 22 min | 16mm  

The late 1960s saw Japan in a fever pitch of political agitation where student protests were a frequent occurrence. A timely insight into radical protest and mass meetings from almost half a century ago, the film reveals the aftermath of protests and shares extremely rare footage of mass meetings that were held at universities. read more

Programme 3: Galaxy

Masao Adachi
1967 | 75 min | Digital  

Adachi uses inventive camera work and creative cuts to throw his protagonist and audience into spatial confusion whilst his characters ruminate on identity and subjectivity. Memory and dreams collapse into incomprehension in a film soundtracked by Fluxus associate Yasunao Toneread more

Programme 4: Katsu Kanai: The Smiling Milky Way  

The Desert Archipelago
Katsu Kanai
1969 | 56 min | Digital  

Katsu Kanai's debut The Desert Archipelago is the first of the Smiling Milky Way Trilogy and a landmark in experimental narrative cinema. read more

Katsu Kanai
1971 | 52 min | Digital  

The first postwar Japanese film to be shot in South Korea, Kanai Katsu continues his 'Smiling Milky Way Trilogy' with Good-Bye, an exploration of Japan-Korean relations and the roots of the Japanese bloodline. read more

The Theatre Scorpio season is kindly supported by the Japan Foundation and the Sasakawa Foundation.  

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