Oshima’s “Night and Fog in Japan”

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 I struggled through Ôshima’s

declamatory “Night and Fog in Japan” (Nihon no yoru to kir, 1960) which juxtaposed panning around the wedding party of a pair who had been involved in the student opposition to the security treaty with the US and flashbacks of meetings and very stylized moments from the student movement. (The groom was a reporter radicalized by what he was reporting on, the bride an activist student.)

The ineptness of the failed anti-treaty/peace movement In which Ôshima had participated is not a horror comparable to Nazi death camps, and appropriating the title of Alain Resnais’s then-more-famous 1955 film borders on sacrilege, all the more in that Resnais’s film avoided harangues like those disrupting the wedding in Ôshima’s film.

I guess there is a critique of Stalinist party discipline and the martinet communist dictator of the Zengakuren student cell, Nakayama (Takao Yoshizawa), and a mixed message of necessary subordination to working class goals and avoiding making the same mistakes again.

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I’m pretty sure that N&FJ is the dullest Ôshima film. Certainly, it is the dullest of

Ôshima’s three 1960 films (Cruel Story of Youth and The Sun’s Burial are the other, earlier-released two). Not that the camera is frozen. It pans and pans and pans, though halting for some lines to be declaimed. Like Ôshima’s other two 1960 films, the cinematography was done by Kawamata Takashi (who, much later, would shoot Imamura’s great “Black Rain” [1989]).

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