Close Up

28 July 2011: Katsu Kanai: The Smiling Milky Way


"Coming at the tail end of the 1960s New Wave, Kanai Katsu became a pioneer of truly independent filmmaking that traversed Japan and Korea to surrealistically engage with issues of politics and identity" – Aaron Gerow

Introduction and Q&A with filmmaker Katsu Kanai

The Desert Archipelago
Katsu Kanai
1969 | 56 min | Digital  

Winner of the Grand Prix at Nyon International Film Festival and selected for Tony Rayns' "Eiga: 25 Years of Japanese Cinema" programme at Edinburgh International Film Festival in 1984, Katsu Kanai's debut The Desert Archipelago is the first of the Smiling Milky Way Trilogy and a landmark in experimental narrative cinema. A young man reaches adolescence and escapes the nunnery where he survived a tortured upbringing. Whilst on the run he encounters strange deities including over-sized newborns played by performance artists Zerojigen and his doppelganger which his wounded back has given birth to.  

Katsu Kanai
1971 | 52 min | Digital  

The first postwar Japanese film to be shot in South Korea, Katsu Kanai continues his Smiling Milky Way Trilogy with Good-Bye, an exploration of Japan-Korean relations and the roots of the Japanese bloodline. "The film uses surrealism and oneiric imagery as well as the disruptive effects of the performance as happening both to fantasize and to subject to ethnographic scrutiny Japan's fraught relation to Korea" – Ryan Cook

Part of Theatre Scorpio: Japanese Independent and Experimental Cinema of the 1960s programme