Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Film Capsule: Nagisa Oshima's The Ceremony (1971)


The Ceremony (1971)
Directed by Nagia Oshima

Though not as stylistically rebellious or outwardly incendiary as the films the Japanese provocateur would make in its immediate vicinity, this mid-period work still proves more subversive. Structured achronologically and told in long, patient shots, the film constructs an entire ancestral history for the fictional Sakurada family via scenes set solely at ceremonial gatherings (funerals, weddings, etc.), each corresponding with a defining year in Japan’s postwar reconstruction. Reminiscing about these alternately commemorative and traumatic occasions, grown son Masuo is matter-of-fact in his thoughts, and as he travels to check on the whereabouts of his missing cousin, recollections of incest and stubborn traditionalism begin to reflect the larger social and political implications of the era. Carefully composed and discreetly disclosed, Oshima’s familial diorama nonetheless carries restless undertones, its trenchant depiction of Eastern (de)evolution brought to symbolic if inevitable ends. (Mar 29 at the Japan Society, part of its Tribute to Donald Richie) [The L]

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