City Paper is not for tourists
The wild man of postwar Japanese cinema, Shohei Imamura rejected the stateliness of such predecessors as Ozu (for whom he had worked as an assistant director) and Mizoguchi to portray what he saw as his countrymen’s hidden barbarism. He ultimately moderated his style, if not his themes, but the upcoming films in this retrospective hail from the director’s raw early days. The Insect Woman is the 1963 saga of a poor farmwoman who will do anything to improve her lot, from turning tricks to blackmailing her clients. Imamura cast an actual middle-aged prostitute in the central role and extolled her will to survive in patriarchal Japan. (The “insect” tag is not a put-down. She’s an industrious ant.) Another tale of working-class female perseverance, 1964’s Intentions of Murder is about a woman who triumphs over a rapist, her domineering husband, and Japan’s disdain of illegitimacy. Set in harsh northern climes, it’s a tale of escape that’s as much cultural as geographical. One of the director’s rarely revived works, 1958’s Lights of Night (aka Nishi Ginza Station) was supposed to promote a pop singer, but Imamura subverted the assignment to make an eccentric musical inspired in part by his lifelong fascination with tropical isles. The series runs to Thursday, Dec. 27, at various venues; see Showtimes for this week’s films; see afi.com/silver/new/default.aspx and asia.si.edu/events/films.asp for a complete schedule.