“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)

 

 

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