Pigs and Battleships

Originally released in 1961, Shohei Imamura’s Pigs and Battleships is a beautiful film and one that wonderfully captures a unique period in Japanese history. Following the nation’s defeat in World War II Japan was subject to a significant American presence and as a country recovering from the very serious effects of the war this had a significant impact on the post war malaise. Moving away from war era beliefs, dealing with a distrust of the older generation and generally struggling to survive in difficult circumstances, the younger Japanese population were wrestling with something of an identity crisis.

Parallels between Japan as a country and the lives of the individual characters constantly run throughout Pigs and Battleships, imbuing the character’s lives and decisions with a greater significance and depth. The two main protagonists, low level yakuza Kinta (Hiroyuki Nagato) and his girlfriend Haruko (Jitsuko Yoshimura), are at an important tipping point and there is a sense throughout the film that the decisions they make will define their lives. Continue reading “Pigs and Battleships”

Cruel Story of Youth – An introduction to the Japanese New Wave

The Japanese New Wave of the sixties is one of the most difficult movements in cinema to discuss if you’re attempting to pin down a particular group of filmmakers, or even a specific time frame.

This was definitely not the work of a group of determined individuals focused on creating a movement, there was no manifesto, and many of those involved deny that any such movement existed. On the other hand, when one surveys the cinema of Japan from the early fifties until the early seventies there is a very identifiable shift. It’s what could conservatively be called a gradual sea-change, or perhaps more generously, a bona fide New Wave.

This somewhat amorphous movement is nonetheless a fascinating insight into a specific period of Japanese cinematic history. Not only this, but it also provides us with way to contextualise the preceding years just was well as we might measure how its influence rippled into the following decade. Continue reading “Cruel Story of Youth – An introduction to the Japanese New Wave”