Ôshima’s “Japanese Summer: Double Suicide

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What other than masochism (since I don’t share the nihilism of many of its characters) drove me to persist to the end of Ôshima’s 1967 “Japanese Summer: Double Suicide” (Muri shinjû: Nihon no natsu)*? What is going on in the movie and why are pretty opaque, and the visuals are not especially interesting.

The movie was mostly shot in a warehouse in which gangsters planning an insurrection hold people who happened on their activities and might betray them to the police. There is also an American sniper with whom some of the ragtag platoon of nonpolitical rebels joins up. The movie that most often came to mind was Godard’s 1963 “Les carabiniers,” which I loathe and consider the worst of Godard’s early movies. (I also had stray thoughts of “If,” made a year later by Lindsay Anderson.) Frustrated desire was central to Ôshima’s preceding movies, “Cruel Story of Youth” “Pleasures of the Flesh” (and the loathsome “Violence at Noon”) albeit it was male there, frequently leading to the frustrated male raping (and, in the case, of “Violence at Noon,” killing) women. (Ôshima spoke of his own extreme sense of shame about his own sexual desires, as well as unleashing rapist-murderers in his movies— see the interview in http://www.austinfilm.org/page.aspx?pid=3369).

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Herein, Nejiko (Sakurai Keiko) has a difficult time distracting any of the many males housed with her to fuck her instead of playing with and fantasizing about guns and knives. (Well, she says three of them have fucked her but not satisfied her; perhaps she needs to feel the risk of death, which is provided by her final, outdoor coupling after everyone other than the pair who are having sex has been killed.) I think this movie has the highest dead body count of any Ôshima movie, including the last one, “Gohatto”/Taboo.

* Not to be confused with Shindo’s great “Double Suicide” (1969)  in which the suicides loved each other, as those in Ôshima’s movie do not.

 

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

 

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