Close-Up has put together a programme of 1960s Japanese independent and experimental cinema to celebrate the range of activities at Shinjuku’s legendary art space Theatre Scorpio for the first time in the United Kingdom. This special programme includes films never before screened in the country or to an English-speaking audience, some brand new prints and freshly subtitled films to offer an engaging insight into a decade that was defined by political ferment and avant-garde activity.
Named by Yukio Mishima after Kenneth Anger’s film Scorpio Rising, Theatre Scorpio (Sasori-za) was a legendary underground art space beneath the Art Theatre Guild’s Art Theatre Shinjuku Bunka. The venue quickly became a centre of activity for all corners of the 1960s arts scene, offering a platform for performance art, theatre, dance and screenings of avant-garde films. Although their autonomous voices were characterised by diversity in approach and style, the artists were united by their urge for individual expression and a desire for a space to share their ideas. Theatre Scorpio met their needs and became a nexus for their experiments.
Tuesday 26 July 8pm: Galaxy
Introduction by Go Hirasawa
1967 | 75 mins | Digital (New English Subtitles)
The inaugural film for the Theatre Scorpio, a man gets lost in his own consciousness in Masao Adachi’s surreal masterpiece that had people queuing round the corner upon its release. Adachi uses inventive camera work and creative cuts to throw his protagonist and audience into spatial confusion whilst his characters ruminate on identity and subjectivity. Memory and dreams collapse into incomprehension in a film soundtracked by Fluxus associate Yasunao Tone.
Thursday 28 July 8pm: An Evening with Katsu Kanai: Smiling Milky Way
Introduction and Q&A with filmmaker Katsu Kanai
THE DESERT ARHCIPELAGO
1969 | 56 mins | Digital
Winner of the Grand Prix at Nyon International Film Festival and selected for Tony Rayns’ ‘Eiga: 25 Years of Japanese Cinema’ programme at Edinburgh International Film Festival in 1984, Katsu Kanai’s debut The Desert Archipelago is the first of the ‘Smiling Milky Way Trilogy’ and a landmark in experimental narrative cinema. A young man reaches adolescence and escapes the nunnery where he survived a tortured upbringing. Whilst on the run he encounters strange deities including over-sized newborns played by performance artists Zerojigen and his doppelganger which his wounded back has given birth to.
1971 | 52 mins | Digital
The first postwar Japanese film to be shot in South Korea, Kanai Katsu continues his ‘Smiling Milky Way Trilogy’ with Good-Bye, an exploration of Japan-Korean relations and the roots of the Japanese bloodline.
“The film uses surrealism and oneiric imagery as well as the disruptive effects of the performance as happening both to fantasize and to subject to ethnographic scrutiny Japan’s fraught relation to Korea” — Ryan Cook
Admission: Adult £5 members/ £9 non-members