Fragments of Japanese Underground Cinema 1960-1974

Event has passed (Thu Feb 14, 2013 - Thu Feb 28, 2013)
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)
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Admission per screening: $10 Regular/ $8 YBCA members, SFC members, students, seniors, teachers; FREE for YBCA:You

The programs assembled for “Fragments of Japanese Underground Cinema 1960-1974” are a selection of radical highlights with historical significance from Tokyo’s counterculture during a politically fervent and socially subversive period of its recent history. Tracing an entire decade of rarely screened works, the programs together examine early experiments in collective filmmaking with the Nihon University Cinema Club; home-movie formats adapted for the purposes of artistic expression with the Group of Three; the redefinition of collage-film with Motoharu Jonouchi’s and Michio Okabe’s film-documents; an expansion of cinematic vision with a multi-projection program; and all-out anarchy with poet Shuji Terayama’s foray into film expression. The eclecticism of the titles is a testimony to the ways in which the limits of film were pushed in all directions in the hands of these artists who perceived cinema to be pregnant with possibilities. At times a document of an era and at other times absolutely timeless, the program looks back whilst looking forward to what cinema once was and what it could still be.

Concurrent to the “Chronicles of Inferno: Films from the Art Theater Guild of Japan” series at the Pacific Film Archive, February 7-27, and the academic conference “Media Histories/Media Theories and East Asia” organized by Miryam Sas at UC Berkeley, February 7-8. Thanks to the Japan Foundation, Museum of Modern Art, UC Berkeley, and Pacific Film Archive.


Gewaltopia: Motoharu Jonouchi's Radical Visions
Feb 14, 2013 7:30pm

Screening Room
Nihon University Cinema Club holds a unique and significant role in the history of Japanese experimental film, not only for its association with student politics but also for its explicit stance against authorship. The Club, whose members included Motoharu Jonouchi and Masao Adachi, would present films in unconventional settings, and indeed, Jonouchi would often reedit his films and insist on projecting them in different ways for each screening. (1960-1974, 76 min, 16mm and digital)

PuPu (Nihon University Cinema Club, 22 min)
WOLS (Motoharu Jonouchi, 18 min)
Tatsumi Hijikata (Motoharu Jonouchi, 1 min)
Gewaltopia Yokokuhen (Gewaltopia trailer) (Motoharu Jonouchi, 13 min)
Shinjuku Station (Motoharu Jonouchi, 14 min)

Films by the Group of Three: Iimura, Obayashi, Takabayashi
Feb 16, 2013 7:30pm

Screening Room
This program reunites the collective the Group of Three, namely Obayashi, Takabayashi and Iimura, who were hailed in the early 1960s for adopting the 8mm format for purposes beyond home-movie diaries with eclectic results: from Obayashi’s joyous films delivered with jocular exuberance to Iimura’s ominous imagery sound-tracked by cutting-edge musicians of the time, including Takehisa Kosugi and Yasunao Tone, both represented in this program. Yoichi Takayabashi’s lyrical eroticism manifests itself in Musashino as an imaginary deity in the forest and a ukiyo-e print. (1961-1965, 65 min, 16mm and digital)

Nakasendo (Nakasen Road) (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 17 min)
Complexe: Binetsu no Hari aruiwa Kanashii Jyozetsu Warutsu ni notte Soretsu no Sampomichi (Complexe) (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 15 min)
Kuzu (Junk) (Takahiko Iimura, 12 min)
Onan (Takahiko Iimura, 7min)
Musashino (Yoichi Takabayashi, 15 min)

Expanded Cinema and Intermedia: Films by Terayama, Matsumoto and Miyai
Feb 21, 2013 7:30pm

Screening Room
Expanded cinema became a true phenomenon in late-1960s Japan. Artists began exploring multiple projection, film as performance, and various Structuralist investigations. This program features some of the best practitioners of the period, including Matsumoto, whose three-projection piece was the first of its kind, and Miyai, who overlapped images of performance troupe Zero-Jigen on top of one another using double-projection. The program concludes with the anarchistic revolt of Shuji Terayama’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup, which scandalized the country both as a radio play and a film. (1967-1971, 77 min, 16mm and digital)

Jidai Seishin no Genshogaku (Phenomenology of Zeitgeist) (Rikuro Miyai, 37 min)
Tsuburekakatta Migime no Tame ni (For My Crushed Right Eye) (Toshio Matsumoto, 13 min)
Tomato Ketchappu Kotei (Emperor Tomato Ketchup) (Shuji Terayama, 27 min)

Michio Okabe's Crazy Love
Feb 28, 2013 7:30pm

Written and directed by Michio Okabe. With Okabe, Zero-Jigen, Kenji Kanesaka, Yasunao Tone. Capturing the exuberance of 1960s Japanese counterculture, Kurejii Rabu (Crazy Love) is an indelible record of performance art, street happenings, futen hippie life, and wildly popular dance halls. Performance artists Zero-Jigen, musician Tone and filmmaker/photographer Kanesaka are among the many familiar faces of the Shinjuku underground who appear in the film, which also features an infectious soundtrack of contemporary pop songs. (1968, 93 min, 16mm)


  1. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)
    701 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA