Saturday, February 2, 2008

Nikkatsu Action Cinema in WI

In a perfect world, there would be a high speed train that connected the Twin Cities to Chicago, that would make Madison a nice three hour trip. I would most certainly be hopping on that train today for the first of two double features at the University of Wisconsin Cinematheque. The four film series, entitled "No Borders, No Limits: Nikkatsu Action Cinema 1960-64," offers a rare opportunity to see some of these lesser known titles within the Nikkatsu vaults.

Nikkatsu was best know as the studio who gave Shohei Imamura and Seijun Suzuki their start. The most prolific period for Nikkatsu was from the mid-50s to late 60s when the studio was producing some of the most interesting films being made. Aside from the superstar directors and the innumerable porn films, most of the Nikkatsu films have been long forgotten.

Enter Mark Schilling who started taking a look at some of the lesser known Nikkatsu films while he was doing research for his book The Yakuza Movie Book. The result was this traveling series and a subsequent book of the same title. These films have been making the rounds at festivals and such, but so far, these Madison screenins are the closest they have come to the Twin Cities. For those lucky enough to be in Madison area, here is the lowdown:

February 2, 7:30pm
The Warped Ones (1960) Directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara
"Released shortly after Godard's Breathless, The Warped Ones is among Kurahara's boldest departures from studio conventions. Akira, a jazz-crazydelinquent, wreaks twisted revenge on the reporter who sent him to the reformatory, beginning with the brutal rape of the reporter's fiancée."
February 2, 9:00pm
Plains Wanderer (1960)
Directed by Buichi Saito
"The 'Eastern Western' Plains Wanderer marks the fifth installment of a nine-part series starring Kobayashi. Armed with a guitar and a bullwhip, Kobayashi wanders the Japanese countryside atop his trusty steed. This time out, he sides with Japanese aborigines in their struggle against a developer."
February 23, 7:30pm
Red Handkerchief (1964) Directed by Toshio Masuda
"After years of self-imposed exile, a cop returns to Yokohama to unravel the truth about his fatal witness shooting. A career landmark for both superstar Ishihara and director Masuda, and the third highest grossing Japanese film of 1964, Red Handkerchief defines Nikkatsu's 'mood action' aesthetic."
February 23, 9:25pm
Glass Johnny: Looks Like a Beast (1962) Directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara
"Inspired by La Strada, Glass Johnny marked a sharp departure from the Nikkatsu Action norm-notably, its central character is a woman. In the film, a pure-hearted whore bounces between her cruel pimp and an apathetic gambler, passing from victim-hood to transcendence."

Personally, I think these films look awesome. It seems pretty obvious that I am not going to make it to the first two films, but a February 23 roadtrip is not out of the question. Interested parties who have a vehicle that gets better than 12 mpg, should contact me.

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