News KVIFF Celebrates Iconic Japanese Filmmaker Yasuzo Masumura

Published: April 25, 2023| 02:41 PM

A towering figure of post-war Japanese cinema is the subject of the 57th Karlovy Vary International Festival’s forthcoming tribute program. Long neglected in most of the Western world, the zany films of Japanese filmmaker Yasuzo Masumura (1924 – 1986) have been gaining traction over the past decade, attracting new devotees and forcing critics and academics to reassess his ascribed position within the Japanese New Wave.

Two decades after his work began to circulate across in Europe and the U.S., albeit in limited capacities, the films of Masumura now rank among the biggest film discoveries of the 21st century – a highly eclectic, unabashedly confrontational body of work with rebellious politics and highly distinctive aesthetics.

Reflecting his singular versatility, knack for experimentation, and strong engagement with the political landscape of the day, the films of the retrospective range from his youthful Sun Tribe debut Kisses (1957) and gorgeously lensed Sirkian melodrama The Blue Sky Maiden (1957), to the biting espionage thriller The Black Test Car (1962) and the hugely daring lesbian drama All Mixed Up (1964).

Masumura’s anti-war stance was front and center in his work – an ideological position detected in a number of the program’s titles such as the sharp satire Hoodlum Solider (1965) and, most controversially, in The Red Angel (1966), the director’s most famous work in the West whose latest 4K restoration is having its festival premiere at KVIFF 2023.

The corrupting pull of consumerism and celebrity cultures; the empowering device of sex for women in attaining their agencies; the unshakable legacy of Japan’s imperialism and militarization; the collapse of traditional family structures…Masumura’s subjects have lost none of their urgency and relevancy. His aesthetics – which evolved from the garish to the pared-down – remain as visionary and unpredictable as ever.

We, Kadokawa, are very pleased to collaborate with the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival for this retrospective," Kadokawa representatives said. “Masumura was the first Japanese filmmaker to study film in Rome and brought a new style to the Japanese film industry at that time. Over the years, he attracted a sizeable fanbase in Europe, including the great Michelangelo Antonioni. This is the first time this century, however, that a European film festival hosts such a large-scale program comprised of recently restored 4K films. We hope that this special program will lead to a reevaluation of his work."

Masumura has proven that mainstream cinema can be as bold, as political, as perceptive, as its arthouse counterpart,” Joseph Fahim, the program’s curator, said. “Constantly breaking barriers and blurring boundaries between art and commerce, the films of Yasuzo Masumura are no less revolutionary than the best of Samuel Fuller, Nicolas Ray or Frank Tashlin. This retrospective, held in anticipation of his 100th anniversary next year, aims to not only introduce audiences from around the world to Masumura’s wild cinema, but to cement his growing reputation as one of Japan’s great film masters.”

Titles of the retrospective:

Kisses (Kuchizuke, 1957)​

The Blue Sky Maiden (Aozora musume, 1957)

Giants and Toys (Kyojin to gangu, 1958)

A Wife’s Confession (Tsuma wa kokuhaku suru, 1961)

Black Test Car (Kuro no tesuto ka, 1962)

All Mixed Up (Manji, 1964)

Hoodlum Soldier (Heitai yakuza, 1965)

The Spider Tattoo (Irezumi, 1966)

Nakano Spy School (Rikungun Nakano gakko, 1966)

The Red Angel (Akai tenshi, 1966)

Blind Beast (Moju, 1969)


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