Shochiku Celebrates Centenary With Classics at FilMart and the HKIFF

Mark Schilling
·2-min read

A film studio since 1920, Japan’s Shochiku has a back catalogue filled with works by master directors including Ozu Yasujiro and Kinoshita Keisuke as well as 1960s New Wave leaders Oshima Nagisa and Shinoda Masahiro and studio stalwart Yamada Yoji, maker of the enduringly popular Tora-san series.

Shochiku has been digitally remastering its classics in 4K for some time now and is bringing to FilMart four of the most recently restored titles in this ongoing project.

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At (almost) the same time, the Hong Kong International Film Festival is laying on a ten-film tribute to the studio as a main plank of its 45th edition (April 1-12, 2021). Titles include: “The Masseurs and a Woman” (1938); Mizoguchi Kenji’s 1939 “The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum”; Kinoshita’s “Twenty-Four Eyes” (1954); Ozu’ “Equinox Flower” (1958); Kobayashi Masaki’s 1962 “Harakiri”; “Love Affair at Akitsu Spa” (1962); Yamada classic “The Yellow Handkerchief” (1977); Berlinale-winning “Gonza The Spearman” (1986); Oshima’s final feature “Gohatto” (1999) and “Vengeance Is Mine” (1979).

Imamura Shohei’s 1979 thriller “Vengeance Is Mine” stars Ogata Ken as a psychotic killer on the run in modern-day Japan. Stark and chilling, the film is also an in-depth psychological portrait of the deranged hero, and heads the company’s FilMart slate.

Also being offered in the market is “Demon Pond,” a 1979 fantasy based on the fiction of Izumi Kyoka and directed by Shinoda. Kabuki onnagata (player of female roles) Bando Tamasaburo stars in a dual role as the wife of a village bell-ringer and the female embodiment of a Dragon God who inhabits a pond in the mountains above the village. According to a local tradition the bell must be rung three times a day to keep the god from destroying the village in a flood. One night supernatural beings emerge from the pond – the lives of the couple and other villagers start to change in unimaginable ways.

Another remastered title is “Vengeance Is Mine,” Imamura Shohei’s 1979 thriller starring Ogata Ken as a psychotic killer on the run in modern-day Japan. Stark and chilling, the film is also an in-depth psychological portrait of the deranged hero.

More in a populist vein is “Hachi-ko,” Koyama Seijiro’s 1987 heart-warmer based on the true story of a purebred Akita dog who kept coming to Tokyo’s Shibuya Station to greet his professor master for eleven years after the professor’s death in 1925.

Shochiku has also remastered “Departures,” Takita Yojiro’s 2008 Academy Award winning drama starring Motoki Masahiro as an out-of-work cellist who finds a new calling as a nokanshi – a traditional mortician who prepares the dead for their final journey in the presence of their loved ones.

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