Category Archives: Film

“THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL SWINDLERS”— Swindling Around the Globe

“The World’s Most Beautiful Swindlers” (Les plus belles escroqueries du monde”)

Swindling Around the Globe

Amos Lassen

“The World’s Most Beautiful Swindlers” is made up of four swindle stories, taking place successively in Tokyo, Japan (“Les cinq bienfaiteurs de Fumiko”), Italy (“La feuille de route”), Paris (“L’homme qui vendit la tour Eiffel”) and Marrakech “Le gran esroc”.Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard , Ugo Gregoretti and Hiromichi Horikawa are the directors represented here and the casts include Jean Seberg, Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Francis Blanche and Ken Mitsuda. Each of the short films is a gem. However, to say anymore about any of the segments would spoil the film for others and so I will simply say that this in one you do not want to miss and the transfer from Olive Films is a gem.

Originally there was an Amsterdam segment, “A River of Diamonds” (directed by Roman Polanski), but it has been removed from presentations of the film at the request of the director.

“ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone”— Indie Journalism

“ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone”

Indie Journalism

Amos Lassen

Fred Peabody’s “All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone” is “a documentary about the original indie journalist I.F. Stone, and his contemporary inheritors” is a film that we can both agree and argue with at the same time. While the title makes it sound like a portrait of Stone, (the trend-setting investigative journalist who died in 1989) it is also about those that follow in his footsteps. Stone self published “I.F. Stone’s Weekly’ in which , he took on the sins of the U.S. government and mainstream media. He was the original political blogger of whom we get a thumbnail sketch of life and we sense his spirit as we watch the documentary.

We see Stone in clips where he explains his reporting methods. He didn’t call government officials, and he wasn’t even accredited to attend a White House press conference. He went into back rooms and pored through documents and transcripts to learn what was really going on.

In 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson and his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, engineered the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the two contrived acts of North Vietnamese “aggression” that were used as a trigger to launch the war in Vietnam but the mainstream media didn’t discover or acknowledge the truth (the U.S. had misrepresented the incident for years). I.F. Stone got to that truth the week after it happened and this is just one of the many scoops he nailed while under the mainstream radar. Michael Moore says that Stone revealed the power elite while they his behind their image of authority.

I.F. Stone was known as “Izzy” and was one of the great journalists of the 20th century and in this film we not only learn about him but also about other independent reporters who are carrying on the tradition of renegade muckraking that Stone almost singlehandedly put on the map in the postwar era.

The movie features Amy Goodman, whose global news program “Democracy Now!” is on the radio, TV, and the Web, and John Carlos Frey who reported a cataclysmic story about 200 Mexican immigrants whose bodies were discovered in mass graves in Brooks County, Texas, 70 miles from the border. We also hear from “Rolling Stone” writer Matt Taibbi, and the Glenn Greenwald from the “Intercept”. We see as Carl Bernstein says that it’s a lot easier to keep a president in check, or even to bring one down, when you have an editor as civic-minded as Ben Bradlee, his boss at the Watergate-era Washington Post.

 “All Governments Lie”, however, focuses on big game like the rush to the Iraq War, which it uses to illustrate the thesis that the mainstream media has become a tool of government and corporate power.

The propaganda that paved the road to the war in Iraq (the acceptance of WMDs, the Colin Powell testimony, even the preposterously alleged Saddam/Al-Qaeda “connection”) went, for the most part, unquestioned by the mainstream media, notably The New York Times. That is what made the Iraq War an opportunity for independent journalism. Watching the film, we are very aware of  the anti-mainstream-media arguments that are repeated so often, and so broadly, that they become a rule that says that all media is controlled by advertisers and that reporters aren’t allowed to question the System. Greed, corruption, and government-sanctioned criminality are hidden in fake news stories.

“All Governments Lie” suggests that the kind of fearless independent reporting practiced by I.F. Stone is alive and well — and that if anything, it’s becoming even stronger. The film’s arguments about fake news (the Kardashians, etc.) undeniable. At the same time, our attention spans and the general dislocation from reality has led to a society that is into conspiracy theory as well as an “outsider” presidential candidate who lies more often than the government does.

One of Stone’s key tenets was that almost any problem in democracy can get fixed if the press brings it to light, “but if something goes wrong with the free press, the country will go straight to hell.” The film was already completed Donald Trump gained the presidency in a way that may yet make Watergate look insignificant by comparison. What we see with Trump’s rise to power is the steady degradation of corporate media that led to this. The film holds “friendlier” administrations (like those of LBJ and Obama) accountable for misleading the public, and the press for cheering them on. Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader o talk about the manipulations and worse that mark every administration.

The film is a call to arms for anyone interested in honest, issues-based journalism, and a well-deserved recognition of regulars who have done this work for decades and what we see is an antidote to the spectacle-driven corporate media that assisted in the rise of Donald Trump.

“UNLOCKING THE CAGE”— Protecting “Nonhuman” Animals

“UNLOCKING THE CAGE”

Protecting “Nonhuman” Animals

Amos Lassen

From filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, we get a real-life legal thriller about one man’s lifelong quest to protect “nonhuman” animals. This is a PSA-style piece advocating nonhuman-rights activism that follows Harvard law professor Steven Wise over a three-year span as he attempts to help pass legislation that would recognize the personhood of certain nonhuman animals. Hegedus and Pennebaker worked for three-year efforts s to uncover animal rights violations.

Animal rights lawyer and activist Steven Wise has been fighting for non-human rights for 30 years. In 2011, he and his team at the NonHuman Rights Project upped the ante when they filed lawsuits on behalf of four captive chimpanzees. Their goal was to prove to the courts that animals have the rights of a “person” in “Unlocking the Cage.”

Steven Wise and his dedicated team of professors, attorneys and law school students who have spent years fighting for the rights of the animals that cannot fight for themselves in a court of law. This film helps us understand it all better. The directors have, essentially, divided the film into two distinctive parts.

For about the first half of “Unlocking the Cage,” Steven Wise and the members of the NhRP search the state of New York for suitable “clients” to present before the court. The search has its highs, when they find Merlin and Reba at the Bailiwick Zoo in Catskill, NY, and lows, when they learn that Reba died and, shortly after, Merlin does, too. The team faces an uphill battle to find the right chimp to represent but they keep dying. Eventually, of course, they do find their clients.

Once the search process is over, the movie goes into the actual litigation for the court. The legal drama unfolds in a succession of appearances in the NY lower courts, then, all the way to the state Supreme Court.

For decades, animal rights lawyer Steven Wise took on individual cases on the behalf of cats and dogs, but with 160 animals being killed with every heartbeat, he decided to reach higher.  Along with his team, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), Wise began to fight for personhood rights for cognitively complex animals like elephants, chimpanzees and dolphins.  In December 2013, Wise and his legal team filed three lawsuits using writs of habeas corpus to attain the release of four chimpanzees.  What he was doing, in effect, was unlocking the cage.

Wise, who has received national media coverage for his efforts, more than likely had a lot to do with the passage of new laws protecting animals.  The filmmakers then follow Wise as he searches for candidates to push his agenda.  We see amazing evidence of just how intelligent these animals are, from chimps using computers to conversing with researchers using sign language. 

Eventually the team settle on Hercules and Leo, two chimps in an ambulatory study at Stony Brook and the legal drama begins.  Wise has many pitfalls to sidestep in his arguments with judges frequently citing the animal welfare laws which have failed him in the past.  One judge takes exception to Wise’s comparison of the apes’ situation to those of slaves (he also cites former laws which excluded similar rights for women and children). The film is both heartbreaking and heartening at the same time and equally as what we see is a profound examination of animal rights issues and a portrait of a heroic activist.

The focus is on the efforts of Wise to rewrite the book on personhood, starting with higher-order mammals like primates, pachyderms, and cetaceans. The title refers to an actual book, Wise’s Rattling the Cage, which advances a “theory of mind” that puts some animals on a cognitive level with humans.

Wise and his team push several cases up through the appellate system of New York State, which happens to hold a number of chimpanzees in less-than-ideal conditions.

We go on visits with chimps and see their startling abilities to communicate. We see others that are being held in terrible conditions. Wise and company are very careful not to demonize their litigants, who are often quite attached to their charges, but who acting out of ignorance or profit motive. What’s most interesting here, on the dramatic front, is the genuine engagement they achieve with judges and state’s attorneys encountered along the way, suggesting that even opponents of the rebranding of animals from “things” to persons are interested in keeping the discussion open.

    Co-directors Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker have a knack for knowing how to make a documentary that finds just the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally and intellectually.

Unless you’re made out of stone and have no compassion or humanity, you’ll find yourself rooting for the chimps. Ultimately, “Unlocking the Cage” is a captivating, alarming, gripping documentary.

“THE FUTURE OF WORK AND DEATH”— Technology, Work and Death

“THE FUTURE OF WORK AND DEATH”

Technology, Work and Death

Amos Lassen

Sean Blacknell and Wayne Walsh bring us a provocative documentary in which worldwide experts in the fields of futurology, anthropology, neuroscience and philosophy consider the impact of technological advances on the two certainties of human life: work and death.

“The Future of Work and Death” looks at the exponential rate at which mankind creates technologies to ease the process of living. Then as we set out on the next phase of advancement with automation and artificial intelligence driving the transformation from man to machine, what we see here is a realistic look into the future of human life.

The documentary includes experts on this such as author Will Self, futurist Gray Scott, transhumanist Zoltan Istvan, and neuroscientist Rudolph Tanzi. Not only do we learn something here, the film often surprising, and always engaging.

We hear a dialogue that is as exponentially terrifying and increasingly utopian. Not only do filmmakers have to traverse a complicated narrative concerning the implications of technological advancement, but they also balance the arguments in terms of outlooks, themes and prejudices.
 We would think that a film concerning work and death would seems to be morbid but these are just themes that consume our lives. We spend huge amounts of time doing the former and apprehensively awaiting the latter, so much so that a film about these concerns will not only find its place with a large audience, it is also essential viewing. This is a film that is fervent and a thriller. It uses talking heads, animations, techno music, archival footage and much more to give us a collage of computer-aged conundrums. The main threat is that technology is advancing at such a rate that humanity is ill prepared and dangerously incapable of handling such a responsibility. Putting this into the everyday context of work and death, we get quite a complex and fascinating film.

 Both filmmakers freely admit to being frustrated by other attempts to tell a story such as this and that such films didn’t ask the questions which they wanted to hear. We soon understand that we are a part of an enormous conversation in which the result is a forceful film that delivers a coherent commentary on one of the most apparent yet ignored subject matters of our times. The frenetic pace and short run time is the perfect complement to a story about technology and life and it gives an urgency to it that is thought-provoking and compelling and the film allows for the inevitable philosophical debates which will ensue. Like all good documentaries, the film does not attempt to answer the questions it posits; instead it lets us think about what we have seen. Very few conclusions are drawn and even among  the scientific, anthropological, futurist speakers who appear on screen, there is no sense of a specific thread that emerges, except that we all need to start thinking more about it this. The film does an incredible job of challenging us. engaging.

The film charts human developments from Homo habilis, past the Industrial Revolution, to the digital age and beyond as it looks at the shocking exponential rate at which mankind has managed to create technologies to ease the process of living. As we embark on the next phase of our adaptation, with automation and Artificial Intelligence signifying the complete move from man to machine, this film asks what the implications are for the human purposeful fulfillment, making money and ageless immortality.

“MURDERS AT BARLUME”— A New Detective Series

“Murders at Barlume”

A New Detective Series

Amos Lassen

“Murders at Barlume” is a colorful new mystery based on the novels by Marco Malvaldi. It is set in the idyllic beach resort town of Pineta on the beautiful Tuscan coast where we meet Massimo Viviani (Filippo Timi), the recently divorced owner of the bistro, Barlume. Massimo is a man who loves puzzles of all kinds, and his sharp mind comes in handy when he frequently moonlights as an amateur detective, helping to solve strange crimes along with the gossipy gang of eccentric septuagenarians who come to his bar. The series is an irreverent mix of mystery, comedy and Italian charm.

From the producers of Detective Montalbano comes a new series of quirky Italian mysteries! In the idyllic town of Pineta on the beautiful Tuscan coast, recently divorced Massimo Viviani owns the local watering hole, Barlume. He also moonlights as an amateur detective, solving strange crimes with the gossipy gang of eccentric septuagenarians who frequent his bar.

Vivani and the ladies share a passion for chats, cards and drinks and a peculiar eye for discovering murders often causing them to put themselves into situations that are the cause of a lot of trouble. Vivani’s guesswork annoys the investigations of Detective Vittoria Fusco, the police officer in charge in town, who asks for his help in solving cases.

Below are synopses of the first six episodes:

1.”The King of Games” (Episode 1 of 6)

Massimo gets enmeshed in a tricky mystery after a car accident claims the lives of a prominent political aide and her son.

  1. “The Highest Card” (Episode 2 of 6)

The Barlume gang investigates rumors about a local restaurateur, and Massimo has to hire a new waitress.

  1. “The Crap Tombola” (Episode 3 of 6)

The funeral of Massimo’s uncle is interrupted by the murder of a local pharmacist, and some of the Barlume gang are suspects.

  1. Game For Five

Massimo investigates the murder of a young girl found in an abandoned building, and his love life goes from zero to complicated.

  1. “Chinese Whispers” (Episode 5 of 6)

Massimo finds the body of a well-known psychic in the trunk of a car, and the Barlume gang finds a suitcase full of money.

  1. “Action-Reaction” (Episode 6 of 6)

A Russian man collapses and dies while drinking at Barlume, and Massimo has to solve the case to save his business.

The characters have great chemistry and there are a lot of laughs. The acting is excellent all around.

“CHICKEN”— Richard, 15 Years Old

“Chicken”

Richard, 15 Years Old

Amos Lassen

Writer-director Joe Stephenson, in his first feature film, follows a 15-year-old boy named Richard (Scott Chambers) who suffers from learning difficulties and lives a troubled life with his beloved but erratic and abusive older brother “Polly” (Morgan Watkins) in a seedy and rundown old caravan on someone else’s countryside property. With his brother too busy either working or drinking to really spend much quality time with him, Richard creates his own little world including talking to his chicken, Fiona, his only friend.

One day, Richard meets Annabel (Yasmin Paige), the seventeen-year-old daughter of the family that is threatening to evict Richard and his brother from their land. As the friendship between Richard and Annabel grows, his family bonds become stretched to breaking point as dark secrets and devastating future possibilities are revealed. Richard’s learning disabilities are unspecified but he is a teen with a sunny outlook, who lives his lonely existence in the countryside under the domineering eye and frequently violent hand Polly. Richard’s isolation and desire to be loved are emphasized from the outset by his desperate attempts to win his sibling’s affection with breakfast and his one-sided conversations with his chicken best pal, Fiona.

Annabell’s friendship starts to offer some hope for Richard. Stephenson uses his camera well to emphasize Polly’s dominance by frequently letting his features fill the frame. When “Chicken” starts to build up emotionally, Chambers keeps it small making Richard believable and sympathetic. Annabell has just enough edge to keep the dynamic between her and Richard believable. Richard’s character offers a continual ray of hope and by the time confrontation builds to climax we care what happens not only to Richard but to Polly as well.

“Chicken” is a gentle yet powerful film and the sensitive handling of its characters means their stories and individual plights – whether it’s Richard feeding his beloved chicken or Polly trying desperately to find work – never feel rushed or glossed over. This is a film that feels real and hits home with emotion.

Scott Chambers plays the troubled but utterly loveable Richard with a sensitive naiveté and quiet pathos. It’s a pleasure to be in his company and heart breaking whenever he is mistreated or the complex world around him gets too much for him to bear. Paige is wonderful as Annabel; she exudes charm and likeability as well as an emotional complexity that comes into play once she becomes irresistibly invested in Richard’s life. Morgan Watkins is a rising star who brings a believability and an empathy to a potential very unlikeable character.

This is a small film that packs a big emotional punch. It is deceptive in its initial simplicity and is full of relatable humanistic and emotive details.

“INCORPORATED”— 2074—The Future

“Incorporated”

2074— the Future

Amos Lassen

Climate disaster has caused a catastrophe. The world’s food supplies are controlled by two corporations— Spiga and Inazagi and the world is divided into two zones: red and green. Scum of the world are in the red zone and corporate “suits” are in the green zone. The border is defined, but it can be crossed and our protagonist is one of the few who succeeded in crossing it.

On the green side, everybody must contribute to the corporation. Children are brainwashed and people are obsessed with success. Everybody wants to climb up, all the way to the mystic 40th floor. They all dream of capitalism. The ultimate lucky ones are part of Arcadia, a place where all dreams come true. Arcadia is an elite place with only one motto: “What happens in Arcadia, stays in Arcadia”.

Ben Larson (Sean Teale) is the aspiring young hope of the corporation. He’s married to the director’s daughter and works hard to benefit Spiga. His other identity, a dark one, is the one he was born with— Aaron, a kid from the red-zone. In the corporate world, everything he is and everything he’s aspired to is false. His actions and words eventually come into the corporation’s scrutiny. His motivation, to climb up, will come into direct conflict with the hidden past. In the midst of it all, he has personal agenda and his “green-zone” identity is merely a tool for fulfilling it.

Allison Miller is Laura, Larson’s wife Laura and Julia Ormond is Elisabeth, Spiga’s director. “Incorporated” is set in the year 2074, a dystopian future world in which global warming has reduced most of the world to an impoverished husk and international corporations have been given unlimited power to rule over us 99 percenters. The show came on just weeks after one-man corporation Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, and “Incorporated” feels like an ominous sign of things to come.

Ben seems like the perfect corporate drone. He toes the company line, is married to an WASPy plastic surgeon and spends all his time trying to climb the corporate ladder. But Ben’s got a secret. For starters, his name isn’t Ben: It’s Aaron. And it seems he’s engaging in an elaborate, long-term ruse, worming his way into this major corporation so he can find a missing girl. The mystery behind Ben’s motivations is the show is about. The higher he climbs in the rigidly structured corporation, the more information he has access to. Julian (Dennis Haysbert) is the company’s very scary head of security who’s always looking for infiltrators and corporate spies to torture.

It’s difficult to get emotionally involved in Ben’s predicament and while visually, the show is a treat, I found it to be a bit shallow.

“Jacques Rivette Collection: Limited Edition”— Three Films

“Jacques Rivette Collection Limited Edition”

Three Films

Amos Lassen

“The Jacques Rivette Collection” consists of three films each restored, newly translated and are on home video for the first time. Rivette deals with the anxiety of influence and characters often find themselves in states of absolute euphoria, or mania during which they seem to be experiencing the familiar world as if they were prehistoric humans, or infants. Experience is shattered, torn up, hurriedly erased and redrawn. The primal-infantile dimension is crucial, for it’s here that the explorer is far enough away from the world to witness its infinite lattice of connective tissue. The Rivette model of the universe is seen in his unique approach to narrative, performance, shooting, cutting and sound. Rivette peppers his films with an infinite variety of paradoxes, doublings, matched pairs. whose components should dissolve on cohabitation but remain stable.

“Duelle” (1975) introduces us to two beautiful young women who each other by chance and assume the role of amateur detectives. The film opens in the lobby of a decrepit hotel where we meet the two women.

In “Noroît” (1976), a woman vows to avenge her brother’s death at the hands of a pirate leader. With help, the woman spies on the pirates and then gets a job as bodyguard to the pirate leader. The film seems to exist almost entirely in terms of individual scenes, which stand apart from each other with a willful refusal to cohere into any overarching plot. Nevertheless, there is a narrative, of sorts, that carries through the film. This is a story of intrigue in which the players’ motivations aren’t necessarily clear. Everybody seems to have a story, and a scheme, but Rivette seldom focuses on the root causes of what happens since it is enough, for him, that they happen and that they drive the characters into confrontations and altercations.

In “Merry-Go-Round” (1981, ), Elizabeth sends telegrams to her old boyfriend Ben in NYC and to her younger sister Leo in Rome to join her in Paris, where she is selling her dead father’s estate. When Ben and Leo arrive, a mysterious adventure begins.

“Duelle” is film noir as the Queen of the Sun (Bulle Ogier) and the Queen of the Night (Juliet Berto) search for a magical diamond in present day. Its parallel film, “Noroît” is a pirate tale and a loose adaptation of “The Revenger’s Tragedy” starring Geraldine Chaplin. “Merry-Go-Round” stars Joe Dallesandro and Maria Schneider who are summoned to Paris, which leads to one of the most surreal and mysterious tales in a career that was dominated by surrealism and mystery.

Limited Edition bonus features include:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of all three films from brand new 2K restorations of the films

Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-rays)

Optional newly translated English subtitles for all films

Scenes from a Parallel Life: Jacques Rivette Remembers archive interview with the director, in which he discusses “Duelle”, “Noroit” and “Merry-Go-Round”

Remembering “Duelle”— Bulle Ogier and Hermine Karagheuz recollect their work on the 1976 feature

Interview with critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, who reported from the sets of both “Duelle” and “Noroit”

Exclusive perfect-bound book containing writing on the films by Mary M. Wiles, Brad Stevens and Nick Pinkerton plus a reprint of four on-set reports from “Duelle” and “Noroit”

Reversible sleeves with original and newly commissioned artwork by Ignatius Fitzpatrick

“THE GIRL FROM THE BROTHEL”— Child Exploitation

“THE GIRL FROM THE BROTHEL”

Child Exploitation

Amos Lassen

Mia (Llaria Borrelli, who is also the director and co-screenwriter) is a French photographer who is suffering from boredom and her life in the middle class of Parisian society and decides to surprise her husband, Xavier (Philippe Caroit), by flying to Cambodia where he is working. She has an ulterior motive and that is to talk him into beginning a family, something she has always wanted. After arriving, she sees her husband in a brothel having sex with Srey (Setha Moniroth), an eleven-year-old girl.

Mia immediately decides that has to rescue Srey and take her back to her village from where she was abducted. She comes to terms with Sanan (Sen Somnag), the owner of the brothel and it is “a repulsive bargain”, in which allows herself to be used as a sex object to a governmental official in exchange for the freedom of Srey. She and Srey then set out for the Srey’s village. What she does not know is that Srey has smuggled out two other young girls (Daa and Malin) and that they stole money from Sanan. Mia realizes that their situation is quite dangerous and that she and the girls will be haunted down. Yet, Mia does not stop and with the additional responsibility, she continues on with the hope of returning the three young girls to their Cambodian villages. As they get closer to freedom, they realize that life should be and can be a celebration.

When Mia saw her husband with the child in the brothel she is shocked that she passes out and when she regains her senses, she walks around the Cambodian slums in a state of shock, both about her husband and about the exploitation of children of both genders. She is determined to get Srey out and back home but does not have enough money to purchase her freedom from Sanan. The only alternative that she has is to submit to prostituting herself and this brings her into using cocaine (once a terrible habit of hers).

Once that is over she and Srey are on their way to the village when she discovers the other two youngsters and instead of stopping, she assumes responsibility for the girls but she is now forced to travel only on back roads. Her husband is concerned that he cannot make contact with her and has no idea that Mia saw him with Srey. He knows she is Cambodia and he certainly knows that she once had a problem with cocaine so he contacts the police to report that she is missing. Sanan is notified by the police as well but he has connections there and informs Munny (Vanyoth Lay), a corrupt policeman, that the other girls were missing and so Munny sets out to find her.

As they travel Daa becomes ill and Mia manages to get her to her mother in her village where she dies of septicemia. At the funeral, Munny finds Mia and arrests her but when he realizes that she is helping the children, he lets her go and she continues on traveling by canoe and going into the jungle up to Malin’s village and becoming excited Malin calls out to her mother who refuses to take her back causing the boat to turn away.

They finally get to Srey’s village but Mia weakens and suffers from cocaine withdrawal and exhaustion and now adult and child must draw on the other’s strength. Reaching the village, they find Sanan waiting for them.

This is a rough film especially for those of us who have never had to face something like this. I was stunned by what I saw her and the sheer intensity of the film made me glad to live in a country where something like this does not happen on a large scale. Yet the cinematography is gorgeous and the acting is fine all around. I do not think that anyone can watch this film and not be affected by it. This is what moviemaking should be all about.

“KIJU YOSHIDA: LOVE AND ANARCHISM”— Three Films

“Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism”

Three Films

Amos Lassen

“Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism” brings together three works from the late sixties and early seventies making it a loose trilogy that is united by their radical politics and an even more radical shooting style.

The work of director Kiju Yoshida is one of Japanese cinema’s pleasures. Yoshida started out as an assistant to Keisuke Kinoshita before making his directorial debut at age 27. In the years that followed he produced more than 20 features and documentaries but most of them have until recently remained unseen in the English-speaking world.

This collection brings together three works from the late sixties and early seventies that exhibit radical politics and an even more radical shooting style. In “Eros + Massacre” made in 1968 (presented here in both its 169-minute theatrical version and the full-length 220-minute director s cut) tells the parallel stories of early 20th-century anarchist (and free love advocate) Sakae Osugi and a pair of student activists. Their stories interact and intertwine, resulting in a complex, rewarding work that is regarded as Yoshida’s masterpiece.

“Heroic Purgatory” pushes the cinematic language of Eros + Massacre further by presenting a bleak but dreamlike investigation into the political discourses taking place in early seventies in Japan. It begins with a Eiko, a 20 year old student at Tokyo Design College, interviewing Mako, the daughter of Itō Noe, the Japanese anarchist and feminist of the Taishō era. The film juxtaposes the past with the present: Itō’s life, and her relationship with the anarchist Ōsugi Sakae, is intercut with scenes depicting Eiko’s life and that of her compatriot Wada. Interested in the ideas of Itō and Ōsugi, Eiko researches their lives and practises Ōsugi’s principle of ‘free love’, and her free-spirited approach to her own sexuality leads to her being investigated by a detective who believes her to be a prostitute. In some sequences, the past bleeds into the present, with characters from the past appearing in scenes set within the present.

“Heroic Purgatory” (1969) begins with a young man, Asahi Heido, murdering an elderly man, later revealed to be Yasuda Zenjiro, the head of the Yasuda financial cartel. Shortly after, revolutionary writer Kita Ikki receives a communiqué from Asahi in which Asahi claims to have acted on the ideas presented in one of Kita’s books, ‘Outline Plan for the Reorganisation of Japan’. A disciple of Kita’s, Nishida Mitsuki, coordinates a cabal of military and naval officers with the aim of assassinating the Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior. Whilst Kita is on the periphery of this uprising, having no direct part focuses on an engineer, Shoda, and his wife Kanako. The lives of this couple are disrupted by the appearance of a young woman, Ayu. Ayu claims that Shoda is her father. Ayu’s arrival heralds the appearance of a number of men who claim to be her father. This event causes Shoda to reflect on his past as a militant youth, the mysterious ‘Plan D’ which involves the abduction of ‘Ambassador J’, and also carries us into the future – to 1980, where Shoda and his wife are interrogated by the press in a kaleidoscopical sequence which seems almost like something concocted by Fellini.

“Coup d’etat” (1973) takes us back to the past for a biopic of Ikki Kita, the right-wing extremist who sought to overthrow the government in 1936. Yoshida considered this film to be the culmination of his work and when it was finished, he retired from feature filmmaking. It has a much more ‘concrete’ approach to its narrative, though comprehension of the events taking place perhaps depends on the viewer’s familiarity with the historical events on which the film is based.

These films are connected by, aside from their political themes and experimental photography, the presence of Yoshida’s wife, Mariko Okada. The three films collected in Arrow’s new Blu-ray boxed set are from this era of Yoshida’s filmography.

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

Limited Edition Blu-ray collection (3,000 copies)

High definition digital transfers supervised by Kiju Yoshida

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations for all films

Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM Audio on all films

New translated English subtitles on all films

Yoshida …or: The Explosion of the Story a 30-minute documentary on Eros + Massacre with contributions from Yoshida and film critics Mathieu Capel and Jean Douchet

Introductions to Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’etat by Yoshida

Newly-filmed discussions of Eros + Massacre, Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’etat by David Desser, author of Eros Plus Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave, recorded exclusively for this release

Scene-select commentaries by David Desser on all three films

Heroic Purgatory theatrical trailer

Coup d’etat theatrical trailer

Limited edition packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm

Illustrated 80-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the films by David Desser, Isolde Standish (author of Politics, Porn and Protest: Japanese Avant-Garde Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s) and Dick Stegewerns (author of Kiju Yoshida: 50 Years of Avant-Garde Filmmaking in Post-War Japan)