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May 30, 2006

Shohei Imamura 1926 -2006


Just a couple of days ago I saw Shohei Imamura's 1983 version of Ballad of Narayama. Imamura was one of those filmmakers that I began getting acquanted with late in his career. I have an uneven picture having seen six features and one short.

My first Imamura film was Black Rain. The theater had a small sign posted to alert people that this was not the Black Rain by Ridley Scott. A couple of patron didn't pay attention but walked out soon after the first horrifying images of Hiroshima's citizens after the bomb.

What I like about Imamura's films is his sense of humor: The final shot of the title character in The Pornographer literally left adrift, the small town eccentrics of The Eel and Warm Water under a Red Bridge, the optimism in spite of adversity in Doctor Akagi.

I am hoping that more of Imamura's earlier films become available on DVD. At the very least, at an age when many filmmakers have retired, Imamura at 71 made the first of three remarkable feature films in succession. That alone should be enough to honor a filmmaker whose constant goal was to use his art, even when the story was fantastic, to tell the truth.

Posted by peter at May 30, 2006 08:50 AM


As I mentioned on my own brief remembrance of Imamura, I think his best film by far is the rarely seen The Profound Desire of the Gods. It's a film I've been dying to show fellow cinephile friends for years, but has never been commercially available. Plus, it's a film that really needs to be seen on the big screen. I've often dreamed of arranging a screening in NYC, but my heart would break when only four people show up.

Did you see that 9/11 omnibus film? I've never been able to make up my mind as to what I think about his contribution to that film.

Posted by: Filmbrain at May 30, 2006 12:54 PM

I saw the 9/11 film. My feeling was that Imamura was reflecting on humanity's inability to learn anything from its mistakes. Making a parable with a man who becomes a snake works within the context of Imamura's films but probably looked out of place with the other shorts which more directly dealt with 9/11.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at May 30, 2006 02:58 PM

Agreed with Profound Desire of the Gods. Saw it in the early '90s at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, and even now I still remember much of it. Funny, disturbing and intensely erotic.

Thanks for the link to my blog, by the way; am returning the favor...

Posted by: Noel Vera at June 3, 2006 06:04 PM

It just so happens that Imamura and Miike are at the Miami Beach Cinematheque this month. Hope you can make it...

Two Great Directors: IMAMURA and MIIKE

512 Espanola Way at Plaza de Espana 305) 67-FILMS (673-4567) www.MBCINEMA.com

Posted by: Dana Keith at July 3, 2006 06:34 PM