February 1st 2021: The Irish Film Institute is pleased to announce the launch of a new season of Japanese cinema on its video-on-demand platform, IFI@Home, available from Friday, February 5th. Japan has one of the world’s oldest film industries, and this season, released across February and March, presents the moral quandaries of the Golden Age, the absurdity of surrealist cinema, and the thrill of true horror. The films included in the first volume of the season are now available to rent for €5.99 from www.ifihome.ie.

Speaking about curating this new season of films, IFI Cinema Programmer Kevin Coyne commented, ‘Alongside classics from titans such as Ozu and Kurosawa are included some more outré examples of work from contemporary directors, as well as samples of uniquely Japanese takes on genre, such as the kaiju, anime, and pinku eiga films featured.’

Volume I of the season contains 11 films. Two distinctive strands of post-war Japanese cinema are represented by Ozu’s masterpiece Tokyo Story (1953), a moral tale in which an elderly couple travel to Tokyo to visit their children, and Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954), the iconic epic  set during the Senguko period of Japanese history, blending the ‘chambara’ (sword-play film) and ‘jidaigeki’ (period drama).

Mikio Naruse’s 1960 drama When A Woman Ascends the Stairs saw Japanese realism reach a devastating new level, with the beautiful yet broken widow Keiko (Hideko Takamine) struggling to maintain financial and personal freedom. Bringing melodrama underground, desire and freedom are played out in Toshio Matsumoto’s arthouse drama Funeral Parade of Roses, which explores the underground gay culture of 1960s Tokyo.

Fears and fantasies permeate the horrors also on offer: the spiritual, four-part ghost story anthology Kwaidan (1963);  14th century historical horror drama Onibaba (1964); and Obyashi’s comedy horror House (1977) are well-known staples of the terrifying and the surreal. The 1989 body horror Tetsuo: The Iron Man sees  traditional psychological horror fuse with low-budget cyberpunk. Merging the thriller genre with crime and romance, Takeshi Kitano’s 1997 Golden Lion winner Hana-bi mixes violence with existentialism, with a daring soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi.

Masayuki Suo’s 1984 debut feature Abnormal Family parodies the work of Ozu in presenting a hyper-sexualised family portrait, in Suo’s only ever ‘pink film’. Perverted daydreams also take shape in a love triangle between those on the fringes of society in Sion Sono’s unmissable four-hour epic Love Exposure (2008).

Tokyo Story (1953), dir. Yasujirō Ozu
Seven Samurai (1954), dir. Akira Kurosawa
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960), dir. Mikio Naruse
Kwaidan (1964), dir. Masaki Kobayashi
Funeral Parade of Roses (1969), dir. Toshio Matsumoto
Onibaba (1964), dir. Kaneto Shindo
House (1977), dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi
Abnormal Family (1984), dir. Masayuki Suo
Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), dir. Shinya Tsukamoto
Hana-bi (1997), dir. Takeshi Kitano
Love Exposure (2008), dir. Sion Sono

Japanese Story: Volume I titles are available to pre-order here.

The IFI is supported
by The Arts Council

Arts Council of Ireland