Tribute to Yasuzô Masumura 

KVIFF celebrates iconic Japanese filmmaker Yasuzô Masumura with a career-spanning program

This towering figure of post-war Japanese cinema is the subject of the 57th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival’s forthcoming tribute program. Long neglected in most of the Western world, the zany films of Japanese filmmaker Yasuzô 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 in Europe and the USA, albeit in a limited capacity, 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.

Masumura began his career under the flagship of Daiei, the powerhouse studio responsible for some of the most acclaimed Japanese films of the 1950s and 1960s (Rashomon, Ugetsu, Gate of Hell). From 1957 to 1971 Masumura was one of Daiei’s most prolific talents, directing two or three films a year and establishing himself as one of the company’s key figures.

All eleven films included in this extensive program were made during Masumura’s legendary stint at Daiei. Reflecting his singular versatility, knack for experimentation, and strong engagement with the political landscape of the day, the films in the retrospective range from his youthful Sun Tribe debut Kisses (1957) and gorgeously lensed Sirkian melodrama A Cheerful Girl (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 Soldier (1965) and, most controversially, in The Red Angel (1966), the director’s most famous work in the West, whose latest 4K restoration will be screened in its world premiere at KVIFF 2023.

The corrupting pull of consumerism and celebrity cultures; the empowering tool of sex for women in attaining their agency; 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.

Most importantly, Masumura has proven that mainstream cinema can be as bold, as political and as perceptive as its arthouse counterpart. Constantly breaking barriers and blurring boundaries between art and commerce, the films of Yasuzô Masumura are no less revolutionary than the best of Samuel Fuller, Nicholas Ray or Frank Tashlin.

This retrospective, held in anticipation of his 100th anniversary next year, aims not only to introduce audiences from around the world to Masumura’s wild cinema, but also to cement his growing reputation as one of Japan’s great film masters.

Joseph Fahim

  • All Mixed Up Svastika / Manji
    Directed by: Yasuzô Masumura
    Japan, 1964, 90 min

  • The Black Test Car Černé testovací auto / Kuro no tesuto ka
    Directed by: Yasuzô Masumura
    Japan, 1962, 95 min

  • The Blind Beast Slepá bestie / Mōjū
    Directed by: Yasuzô Masumura
    Japan, 1969, 84 min

  • Giants and Toys Obři a hračky / Kyojin to gangu
    Directed by: Yasuzô Masumura
    Japan, 1958, 96 min

  • Hoodlum Soldier Jakuzák vojákem / Heitai yakuza
    Directed by: Yasuzô Masumura
    Japan, 1965, 103 min

  • A Cheerful Girl Veselá dívka / Aozora musume
    Directed by: Yasuzô Masumura
    Japan, 1957, 89 min

  • Kisses Polibky / Kuchizuke
    Directed by: Yasuzô Masumura
    Japan, 1957, 74 min

  • Nakano Spy School Vojenská škola Nakano / Rikugun Nakano gakko
    Directed by: Yasuzô Masumura
    Japan, 1966, 96 min

  • The Red Angel Rudý anděl / Akai tenshi
    Directed by: Yasuzô Masumura
    Japan, 1966, 95 min

  • The Spider Tattoo Tetování / Irezumi
    Directed by: Yasuzô Masumura
    Japan, 1966, 86 min

  • The Wife's Confession Zpověď manželky / Tsuma wa kokuhaku suru
    Directed by: Yasuzô Masumura
    Japan, 1961, 91 min


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