NYFF Velvet Bullets and Steel Kisses: Celebrating the Nikkatsu Centennial Oct 01 – Oct 16

NYFF Velvet Bullets and Steel Kisses: Celebrating the Nikkatsu Centennial
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Founded upon the consolidation of several production companies and theater chains, Nikkatsu Corporation has enjoyed a rich history of film production and distribution since 1912. During World War II, Nikkatsu was forcibly combined with several other Japanese studios to form a large, government-influenced studio, but in 1954 the company resumed production under its own control.

Searching for its own niche in the booming postwar Japanese film industry, Nikkatsu moved into the youth market with its stirring screen adaptation of Shintaro Ishihara’s Season of the Sun. As the vogue for these youth films began to wane in the early Sixties, Nikkatsu launched a series of hard-boiled action films that remain perhaps the company’s best-known period internationally. Led by such action stars as Joe Shishido, Yujiro Ishihara, and Hideaki Nitani, Nikkatsu action introduced a new kind of protagonist, often cynical and at odds with a society revealed to be totally corrupt. With aging action stars and a public looking for something new, Nikkatsu in the Seventies created “Roman Porno,” “romantic pornography,” a series of soft-core erotic films that featured real (if often bizarre) plots and actors.

Remarkably, despite the collapse of the domestic Japanese film market, Nikkatsu has remained continuously in production, branching out into new genre such as horror, martial arts, and even family drama. As it approaches its centenary, Nikkatsu’s motto “We Make Fun Films” remains as true today as it was in its golden era. A new generation of filmgoers are discovering its classic films and filmmakers, inspiring not only the re-release of films from their catalogue but the production of remakes as well.

“Velvet Bullets and Steel Kisses” was organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center with Nikkatsu Corporation, the Japan Foundation, and the National Film Center of Japan. This Centenary Celebration of Nikkatsu will be screened later this year at the Festival of 3 Continents in Nantes, France, as well as at the Cinémathèque Française.

Past Films

The Burmese Harp

The Burmese Harp

Kon Ichikawa | 1956 | 35mm | 115 mins

One of Ichikawa’s best films, this stirring, beautifully shot antiwar story follows a harp-playing Japanese soldier coping after a British victory in Burma.

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Charisma

Charisma

Kiyoshi Kurosawa | 1999 | 35mm | 103 mins

A detective in crisis (Koji Yakusho) leaves home and gets involved in intrigues surrounding a poisonous tree, in Kurosawa’s haunting, powerfully allegorical film.

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Cold Fish

Cold Fish

Sion Sono | 2010 | 35mm | 144 mins

A meek tropical fish storeowner and his family get mixed up with a homicidal fellow salesman. “Full-throttle hysteria, splattered in eye-gougingly garish hues!” —Film Comment

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A Colt Is My Passport

A Colt Is My Passport

Takashi Nomura | 1967 | 35mm | 85 mins

The great Joe Shishido stars as a hit man caught between competing gangs after a sniper job, in a prime Nikkatsu slice of tough, visually striking yakuza action.

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Crazed Fruit

Crazed Fruit

Ko Nakahira | 1956 | 35mm | 86 mins

Raw desire and fresh style mark this landmark “Sun Tribe” film about two aimless, privileged brothers who crave the same girl at the beach.

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Dancer in Izu

Dancer in Izu

Katsumi Nishikawa | 1963 | 35mm | 87 mins

A student falls for a dancer in this gently compelling wabi sabi-style love story based on the novella by Nobel Prize-winning author Yasunari Kawabata.

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A Diary of Chuji’s Travels

A Diary of Chuji’s Travels

Daisuke Ito | 1927 | 35mm | 107 mins

Like a Jesse James penny dreadful, this passionate tale tells of a legendary bakuto, or gambler, precursor to modern-day yakuza. Live piano accompaniment!

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Gate of Flesh

Gate of Flesh

Seijun Suzuki | 1964 | 35mm | 90 mins

Tokyo prostitutes band together against a harsh world, in provocateur Seijun Suzuki’s volatile snapshot of slum life. Star Joe Shishido in person on Oct 2!

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The Hell-Fated Courtesan

The Hell-Fated Courtesan

Noboru Tanaka | 1973 | 35mm | 77 mins

Tanaka’s skillful blend of sexploitation and arthouse centers on a courtesan-filled temple frequented by royalty, where lovers of a “death goddess” (Rie Nakagawa) mysteriously die.

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Hometown

Hometown

Kenji Mizoguchi | 1930 | 35mm | 86 mins

An Italian-trained tenor is tempted by fame, to his wife’s dismay, in the first sound film from the masterful director of Ugetsu.

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I Look Up When I Walk

I Look Up When I Walk

Toshio Masuda | 1962 | 35mm | 91 mins

Masuda's tough take on juvenile street gangs created an international pop hit with the movie's title song, dubbed "Sukiyaki" in America and sung by lead actor and heart throb Kyu Sakamoto.

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Intentions of Murder

Intentions of Murder

Shohei Imamura | 1964 | 35mm | 150 mins

After an assault by a burglar, housewife Sadako finds herself deeply conflicted in Imamura’s psychologically arresting and sensuously shot portrait of fear and desire.

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Intimidation

Intimidation

Koreyoshi Kurahara | 1960 | 35mm | 65 mins

The fates of a blackmailed banker and a frustrated seething junior hurtle towards each other in Kurahara’s pared-down and sleekly orchestrated noir.

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Jiraiya the Ninja

Jiraiya the Ninja

Shozo Makino | 1921 | 21 mins

Surviving only in a fragment, this film about the magically talented Jiraiya comes from “father of Japanese cinema” Shozo Makino. Live piano accompaniment!

Screening with Made to Order Cloth aka The Chivarlous Robber Jirokichi (Oatsurae Jirokichi Goshi).

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Love Hotel

Love Hotel

Shinji Somai | 1985 | 35mm | 88 mins

Featuring Somai’s sensitive long takes, this late pink film about a man ruined by the yakuza becomes a portrait of wounded souls aching to recover.

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Mud and Soldiers

Mud and Soldiers

Tomotaka Tasaka | 1939 | 35mm | 120 mins

Shooting on location in China, Tasaka presents a low-key but stirring account of the day-to-day travails of Japanese soldiers, swapping individual heroics for devotion to the group spirit.

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The Oldest Profession aka Confidential Report: Sex Market

The Oldest Profession aka Confidential Report: Sex Market

Noboru Tanaka | 1974 | 35mm | 83 mins

As directed by an apprentice to innovators Imamura and Suzuki, the daily life of an Osaka prostitute comes alive with seedy locations, inventive camerawork, and a snazzy score.

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Pigs and Battleships

Pigs and Battleships

Shohei Imamura | 1961 | 35mm | 108 mins

Imamura’s provocative, seriocomic dive into the venal squalor of a pleasure port for American sailors was this key director’s first big splash.

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Retaliation

Retaliation

Yasuharu Hasebe | 1968 | 35mm | 94 mins

Star Joe Shishido in person on Oct. 1!

Hasebe’s hardboiled New Action take on underworld turf wars pits tough guy Akira Kobayashi (as an ex-con gang leader) against Joe Shishido. With Meiko Kaji.

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Rusty Knife

Rusty Knife

Toshio Masuda | 1958 | 35mm | 90 mins

All bets are off when two gangsters, desperately trying to go straight, witness the wrong murder in this harbor-set noir thriller from Nikkatsu action maven Masuda.

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Season of the Sun

Season of the Sun

Takumi Furukawa | 1956 | 35mm | 89 mins

High school boxers make love and battle beach-side in this seminal Sun Tribe film capturing the rebelliousness of Japan’s postwar youth. With a young Yujiro Ishihara.

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Singing Lovebirds aka Samurai Musical

Singing Lovebirds aka Samurai Musical

Masahiro Makino | 1939 | 35mm | 69 mins

One of Japan’s first auteurs, Makino offers a real Japanese musical that follows a love story between a samurai and a courtesan during the Edo period.

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Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter

Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter

Yasuharu Hasebe | 1970 | 35mm | 86 mins

The wild girl-gang cult favorite! Motorcycle madness, molotov cocktails, Seventies fashion, and the iconic Meiko Kaji strutting her stuff against fellow delinquents.

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Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate aka Shinagawa Path

Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate aka Shinagawa Path

Yuzo Kawashima | 1957 | 35mm | 110 mins

Amid the confusion of the declining shogunate, affable layabout Saheiji (popular comedian Frankie Sakai) helps out at an expensive brothel to work off his debt.

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Suzaki Paradise: Red Light

Suzaki Paradise: Red Light

Yuzo Kawashima | 1956 | 35mm | 81 mins

An unwed couple takes refuge in a Tokyo red-light district in this matter-of-fact look at the seamier side of life from key transitional director Kawashima.

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Take Aim at the Police Van

Take Aim at the Police Van

Seijun Suzuki | 1960 | 35mm | 79 mins

After an attack on a prisoner van, a punished guard digs deeper and finds sordid secret plots, in this inventively shot mystery from burgeoning Nikkatsu maverick Suzuki.

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Tattooed Core of Flower

Tattooed Core of Flower

Masaru Konuma | 1976 | 35mm | 74 mins

In Konuma’s stylish and beautiful pink melodrama, a widowed dollmaker (Naomi Tani) and her pretty daughter find their close bond threatened by affairs and guilt.

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Ten Nights of Dreams

Ten Nights of Dreams

Various | 2007 | 35mm | 110 mins

In a rare attempt to truly match the half-remembered weirdness of our dreams, this phantasmagorical collection features ten absurd, nightmarish, and hilarious shorts.

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Till We Meet Again

Till We Meet Again

Yuzo Kawashima | 1955 | 35mm | 115 mins

Fresh from an apprenticeship at Shochiku, Kawashima gave the reborn Nikkatsu one of its first hits with this sharply observed story of the rekindling of a salaryman’s youthful love.

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Tokyo Drifter

Tokyo Drifter

Seijun Suzuki | 1966 | 35mm | 83 mins

Suzuki explodes genre conventions in this Western-inflected tale of a reformed yakuza hit man whose loyalty to his boss leaves him vulnerable to shifting allegiances.

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The Warped Ones

The Warped Ones

Koreyoshi Kurahara | 1960 | 35mm | 75 mins

A jazz-loving delinquent (a thrillingly wild Tamio Kawachi) goes on an anarchic rampage, in Kurahara’s restless and raw film, a counterpart to Godard’s Breathless.

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The Woman with Red Hair

Tatsumi Kumashiro | 1979 | 35mm | 73 mins

Seventies erotic icon Junko Miyashita plays a redheaded hitchhiker who enters the life of a depraved construction worker in this celebrated pink film.

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The World of Geisha

Tatsumi Kumashiro | 1973 | 35mm | 72 mins

A geisha falls in love with a new customer, in a superb entry in Nikkatsu’s explicit but heartfelt “roman pornos” that’s among the best Japanese films of the 1970s.

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