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ZEN & ITS OPPOSITE: Essential (& Turbulent) Japanese Art House

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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ZEN & ITS OPPOSITE: Essential (& Turbulent) Japanese Art House

Coming up at New York’s Japan Society, the 2010-2011 Monthly Classics series peers into the dark side of the classical repertoire of the late 1950s and 1960s: from Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan (1965), Kon Ichikawa’s Fires on the Plain (1959), Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba (1964) to Nobuo Nakagawa’s Hell (1960) and Kihachi Okamoto’s Sword of Doom (1966). Like Antonin Artaud’s proposed “theater of cruelty”, these five master filmmakers offer the bloody and all-too-human spectacle of sin, folly and frailty, in unforgettable tales of crime and punishment, vengeful ghosts and delirious soldiers, mad samurai and deranged marauders (or the other way around), fire and brimstone, and spiritual darkness for good measure… tales of our world, which will give a good (or bad) idea of what comes next.

Thus, the films selected show the little-understood, paradoxical unity of zen and violence: in his book, Zen at War (1997), Brian Daizen Victoria, an ordained Soto Zen priest, documented Japanese Buddhist support for violence and warfare, from 1868 until the end of World War II. He tracked down this surprising embracing of war-making to the intimate relation between Zen and Samurai warrior culture.

This selection will satisfy the courteous viewer with an appetite for dark eroticism and macabre poetry: one who will does not recoil from the exquisite monstrosity of the human heart—which will not fail to haunt him/her long after the screening(s).

Each film illustrates one or several of the “Six Planes of Existence“—a Buddhist concept commonly referred to as “Six Paths” (Rokudō 六道 or Rokudō-rinne 六道輪廻) in Japan—within “the realm of Birth and Death” (Samsara).

Like Antonin Artaud’s proposed “theater of cruelty”, these five master filmmakers offer the bloody and all-too-human spectacle of sin, folly and frailty, in unforgettable tales of crime and punishment, vengeful ghosts and delirious soldiers, mad samurai and deranged marauders (or the other way around), fire and brimstone, and spiritual darkness for good measure… tales of our world, which will give a good (or bad) idea of what comes next.

Schedule

Kwaidan

怪談 (Kaidan)
Friday, October 15, 2010
7:30 PM

Onibaba

鬼婆 (Onibaba)
Friday, November 12, 2010
7:30 PM

Fires on the Plain

野火 (Nobi)
Friday, December 10, 2010
7:30 PM

Hell

地獄 (Jigoku)
Friday, January 21, 2011
7:30 PM

Sword of Doom

大菩薩峠 (Daibosatsu Toge)
Friday, February 18, 2011
7:30 PM

More information on the 2010-2011 Monthly Classics series can be found at the following URL:

http://www.japansociety.org/film

About New York’s Japan Society:

Established in 1907, New York’s Japan Society has evolved into North America’s single major producer of high-quality content on Japan for an English-speaking audience. Presenting over 100 events annually through well established Corporate, Education, Film, Gallery, Lectures, Performing Arts and Innovators Network programs, the Society is an internationally recognized nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that provides access to information on Japan, offers opportunities to experience Japanese culture, and fosters sustained and open dialogue on issues important to the U.S., Japan, and East Asia.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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