Three periods of Imamura Shôhei Films

Though born well-off, Imamura Shôhei (1926-2006) had some personal experience of the postwar black market, interacting with small-time criminals and prostitutes, the kind of people he examined, particularly in “Pigs and Battleships”, which was set in the occupied port of Yokokama.

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He famously revolted against the placid upper middle-class world portrayed by Ozu (for whom Imamura worked in the early 1950s—on “Early Summer,” “The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice,” and “Tokyo Story”—credited only in the last of these). He fled Shochiku to make less decorous, less Zen-aestheticized movies, without the self-sacrificing women of Naruse and Ozu films (prototypically Takamine Hideko), but then ran into trouble at Nikkatsu with the provocative “Pigs and Battleships.”

Imamura said he was inspired to make movies by seeing Kurosawa’s (1950) “Rashômon,” and emulated the rapid cutting of early Kurosawa films.

Imamura’s filmography has two long breaks from making feature films: 1968-79 and 1989-87. I am not very sympathetic to the purported anthropology of Japan in his middle period, preferring the early and late work.

My ratings (on a 10-point scale) of Imamura movies

Early work

Stolen Desire (1958) 7.5

Endless Desire (1958) 7.5

Pigs and Battleships (1961) 7.5

The Insect Woman (1963) 4

Intentions of Murder (1964) 6

The Pornographers (1966) 8

 

 Middle Period

A Man Vanishes (1967) 4

Profound Desire of the Gods (1968) 2

In Search of the Unreturned Soldiers in Malaysia (1970) 3

In Search of the Unreturned Soldiers in Thailand (1971) 3.5

Outlaw Matasu Returns Home (1973) 3.5

Vengeance Is Mine (1979) 4

Eijainauku/Why Not? (1981) 4

 

Late Work

The Ballad of Narayama (1983) 8.5

Black Rain (1989) 8

The Eel/Unagi (1997) 9

Dr. Akagi (1998) 7.5

Warm Water Under a Red Bridge (2001) 7

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