The great opus of Shohei Imamura

The Thessaloniki Film Festival has compiled the complete works of the acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Shohei Imamura and is presenting a retrospective of his 19 films from tomorrow to September 26 at Athens’s Apollon Cinema and from September 27 to October 3 at Thessaloniki’s Olympion. Imamura, a two-time recipient of the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or, among others, is considered the one of the most important Japanese film directors today. He has worked alongside other great auteurs such as Yasujiro Ozu and, at the age of 32, made his directorial debut in 1958 with the film noir «The Endless Desire.» By the early 1960s, Imamura had developed into one of the pioneers of Japanese nouvelle vague with thematically provocative and technically innovative films such as «Pigs and Battleships,» «The Insect Woman» and «The Profound Desire of the Gods.» In this last film, Imamura reverses traditional biases by depicting a population of islanders in the Okinawa archipelago as greedy and cruel, rather than humble and in touch with nature, in contrast to the worldly technocrat engineer who has gone to the island to install an irrigation system. Disillusioned by the course of Japanese cinema, Imamura turned to documentary filmmaking in 1970 with «The History of Post-War Japan as told by a Bar Waitress.» This film, which delivers the testimony of a waitress in a seedy bar catering to non-Japanese, reflects the director’s own experiences of Japan during the postwar years as he struggled to survive through black-market dealings in a country whose economy was in a state of near ruin. He made a triumphant comeback to feature films in 1979 with «Vengeance is Mine,» a shocking film based on the real story of a serial killer and the lives he affected by his actions. His 1983 Palme d’Or-winning film, «The Ballad of Narayama,» which showcases a young village girl’s defiance of tradition, reflects Imamura’s rejection of social stereotypes, while in «Black Rain» (1988) he returned to black-and-white to address the taboo subject of the Hiroshima bombing. His second Palme d’Or (Imamura is the fourth director, the others being Emir Kusturica, Bille August and Francis Ford Coppola, to receive such an honor), came with the 1996 drama «The Eel,» a film followed by 1999’s «Dr Akagi» and the film «Warm Water Under a Red Bridge» (2001), a celebration of sensuality. Imamura’s most recent film is «11’9’01,» which however, will not be shown at the retrospective because it was filmed as a collaboration with other directors, including Ken Loach, Claude Lelouch, Sean Penn and Danis Tanovic.

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