Japanese cinema has long been the subject of intense discussion, deconstruction and debate, thanks in part to the quality of film-makers it has produced—Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, Hiroshi Teshigahara, Kenji Mizoguchi and Mikio Naruse, among other masters—and in part to its unique aesthetic characterized by geometrical frames, ever-evolving and innovative narrative styles, and its unmistakable debt to Oriental poetry.
This Saturday, Cine Darbaar, a Delhi-based group of cineastes, will present, in collaboration with The Japan Foundation, a set of three contemporary Japanese films. Titled Denkikan, the festival will attempt to recreate the ambience at Denkikan, the first movie theatre in Japan. A 16mm projector will be used for the screenings. “In order to recreate the movie-going experience of the salad days of cinema, we will be holding our screenings inside a tent,” says Supriya Suri, artistic director, Cine Darbaar. “In addition, we will have popcorn and channa sellers from the Delhi streets to vend food at the festival to go with the Japanese tea being served.”
In the recent past, Japanese cinema has come to be identified with the umpteen horror and samurai films that have been imported by the West and doled out to audiences, dubbed or with subtitles—not to forget the many remakes and spin-offs that Japanese horror films have inspired.
The closing film of the festival, Pulse (2001) by Kiroshi Kurosawa, belongs to the latter category. This horror film was remade in the US, and possessed neither the originality nor the insight of the original. The original, while providing the customary thrills and chills, also explored the adverse implications of technology on human behaviour. The story revolves around a group of university students who probe a spate of mysterious deaths, all linked to a webcam and a website that offers its visitors a chance to interact with the dead.
Mid-19th century Japan forms the background for director Yoji Yamada’s The Twilight Samurai (2002). The film charts the struggle of a low-ranking samurai who tries to make a decent life for his daughters after his wife’s death. The reappearance of a childhood friend, a battle of honour with a fellow samurai and the constant war of emotions—love for his friend, poverty and the samurai code—form the backbone of this movie.
Linda Linda Linda (2005), the third film being screened, is a comedy that leads us into the lives of a band of girls who are frantically trying to learn a song for their high school festival. Finding themselves short of a vocalist, they rope in a Korean exchange student. Comedy ensues.
The screening schedule at The Japan Foundation: The Twilight Samurai at 4pm, Linda Linda Linda at 6pm, and Pulse at 8pm.