The Japanese “New Wave” (Nūberu bāgu)

The Japanese cinema New Wave (Nūberu bāgu) was simultaneous with the French Nouvelle Vague, though the label “New Wave” was borrowed by Shôchiku Studio publicists, making it seem the Japanese filmmakers were imitating, or at least influenced by the French. The French New Wave filmmakers were rebelling against pretty studio-made pictures (though not those made by Jean Renoir), whereas the Japanese much more quickly challenged social arrangements.

Ôshima Nagisa was, like Godard and Truffaut, a critic before becoming a director. Ôshima’s “Cruel Story of Youth” (Seishun Zankoku Monogatari, also titled “Naked Youth,”1960) was rawer and more nihilistic than Godard’s “Breathless” (À bout de soufflé, 1960), but also mixed crime and romance of a sort (with a nastier male).

If Ôshima was the Japanese Godard, Teshigahara Hiroshi was the Japanese Alain Resnais (not really connected to the other “New Wave” filmmakers). Suzuki Seijun was the Japanese Claude Chabrol (again, more nihilistic than the French parallel), though Imamura Shôhei’s work also had some resemblances to Chabrol’s. I guess that leaves Shinoda Masahiro as the Japanese François Truffaut, who beat Godard to theaters (with “Les Quatre Cents Coups” in 1959).

I have already begun with the outlier Teshigahara, working with experimental novelists Abe Kôbe (Pitfall, Woman in the Dunes, and Face of Another), and am putting off posting on Ôshima films, to post about films directed by Shinoda Masahiro.


Shinoda  had been an assistant director on Ozu’s 1957 “Tokyo Twilight.” Born in 1931, Shinoda married Iwashita Shima, who had already starred in some of the movies he made (as far back as “Dry Lake”/”Youth in Fury”/“Kawaita mizuumi” in 1960, when she also appeared in movies directed by Ozu and Kinoshita), in 1967. (She has been acting in tv movies and miniseries; he has not directed a film since “Spy Sorge” in 2003, though appearing in several Criterion Collection bonus feature interviews.)

Shinoda was an aficionado of American jazz and worked with composer Takemitsu Toru before Takemitsu worked with Teshigahara or Kurosawa. Shinoda made documentaries about his mentor Ozu and another of his seniors, Mizoguchi Kenji, so exhibited filial piety despite influences of American noirs and gangster movies. Having majored in theater history in university, Shinoda had an abiding fascination in the artificiality of the puppet plays of Chikamatsu Monzaemom (1653-1725), as will be seen when I get to Shinoda movies that are available in the US (on Criterion DVD.

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

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