8mm Hachimiri Madness
The late ‘70s to the late ’80s were perhaps the final punk years for Japanese cinema, with the last blossoming of indie filmmakers who let their imagination run wild. In collaboration with Japan’s PIA Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival, the series bring together 11 extraordinary works by Japanese filmmakers honing their youthful skill and dreams on the singular format: Single 8. Some of these filmmakers like Sono Sion and Tsukamoto Shinya have today become household names, while others remain known only to connoisseurs. These films are bold experiments, diverse in themes, styles and approaches, yet connected by that heady and magnificent vision, that Life is Cinema, and Cinema is Life.
The 11 films are restored from their 8mm print original positive to 2K digital, and presented in 7 programmes with newly translated English subtitles. The series has been selected as one of the best film series by Boston Society of Film Critics in December 2017.
2016 Berlinale Forum
2016 The Hong Kong International Film Festival
2016 PIA Film Festival
2016 First International Film Festival
2016 Kaohsiung Film Festival
2017 Harvard Film Archive
2018 L’Étrange Festival
2018 HOME (Manchester)
The Isolation of 1/880000 / The Adventure of Denchu-Kozo
Dir: Ishii Sogo / Tsukamoto Shinya 1977 / 1988 43 / 47min
For Ishii Sogo, a 20-year-old in 1977 and not interested in school or success, “the possibilities to remain on the margins of society, to live like a punk, are very high.”
Isolation of 1/880000, a portrait of such existential angst, presages the blossoming of his punk movies in the ’80s. Made a year before Tetsuo, Tsukamoto’s 8mm cyberpunk spectacle, using such effects as slow-motion animation and pixelation, sees Denchu-Kozo (electricity pylon boy) battling cyborg vampires with Momoko, his only friend in school.
I am Sion Sono!! / Tokyo Cabbageman K
Dir: Sono Sion / Ogata Akira 1984 / 1980 37 / 59 min
Made at an age when the very act of filming alone is larger than life, Sono Sion’s first film is a free-wheeling mixture of cinema and poetry, a madcap mix of everyday going-ons and spellbinding shots with nods to Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a Poet and Terayama Shuji. Ogata Akira borrows K from Kafka’s The Castle and has him metamorphosed into a cabbage head. He gets out of bed and terrorizes Tokyo by chasing down every human and animal. Pure chaos and absolute anarchy crowned with an ecological ending way ahead of its times.
Dir: Yamamoto Masashi / 1980 / 127min
Made two years before the cult classic Carnival of the Night, Yamamoto Masashi’s Saint Terrorism also takes place in Shinjuku with a motley crew of nasty, crazy and anarchic characters including a robber who kills with cyanide and a sex-show couple, with untended dead bodies on the street and dropping from the sky. Yamamoto’s camera lends an immediacy to the action, like a resident of Tokyo’s underbelly filming its (the underbelly’s) own madness and destruction.
Dir: Suwa Nobuhiro / 1984 / 85min
Suwa Nobuhiro, who worked on Yamamoto’s Saint Terrorism, would go on to make H Story and Un Couple Parfait, and become the most “European” of Japanese filmmakers. Ripples of the New Wave are everywhere apparent in Hanasareru Gang. Two hipster gangsters, a young man and a young woman, kill a guy they shouldn’t have killed and are on the run. No Sugarland Express, but Pierrot le Fou, Godardian and Brechtian with jazz music in the background. The film sets out to charm, and charm it handsomely delivers.
A Man’s Flower Road
Dir: Sono Sion / 1986 / 110min
No-holds-barred Direct Cinema! A Man’s Flower Road is neither fiction nor documentary, but a “record” of the acting out of moods of a 25-year-old Sono Sion, which are: rage and restlessness in extremis. He strips naked, screams, and chases down passers-by in Tokyo. Back home in the provinces, he enlists his family to partake in milder forms of madness. With pencil, paper and a movie camera, he flings his anger on the screen with “the energies of hardcore punk.” Those were the days that, Sono said recently, he now looks back with nostalgia.
Dir: Hirano Katsuyuki / 1986 / 93min
When Otomo Katsuhiro saw his manga Good Weather credited as the “original novel” he burst out laughing. There’s not an iota of his book anywhere in the film. Made in the same year as Sono Sion’s A Man’s FlowerRoad, Hirano Katsuyuki’s Happiness Avenue (where Sono plays a role) is madder and more abandoned, in both filmmaking and content. Lovelorn Masahiro goes on an odyssey to find fulfillment of his heart’s desire, and the sea he traverses are Tokyo’s open sewages. Noisy and anarchic, this is stuff that makes your brain-cells bubble.
UNK / High-School-Terror / The Rain Women
Dir: Tezuka Makoto / Yaguchi Shinobu 1979 / 1990 15 / 6 / 72min
Tezuka Makoto delivers two brilliant experiments with 8mm and genre. UNK, a UFO film, tests the limits of the 8mm medium with light, color and multiple exposures, while High-School-Terror promises to go down history as the funniest and shortest horror movie. Rain in Tokyo. Two girls holed up in their apartment. They go out, steal cabbages, hit a supermarket and kill a cow. The sun comes out and changes everything. Alive with spirited spontaneity plus a dash of anarchy, The Rain Women is the true heir to Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating.