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Postwar Japanese Society through Film

Sunday, July 15, 1979
4:00 p.m.
7:45 p.m.
Pigs and Battleships (Buta to gunkan)
Shohei Imamura (Japan,1961)

A hard but humorous look at the robust, high-spirited lower-class side of Japan - a world untouched by the tea ceremony, Zen or traditional gentility. Choosing as his setting the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka, Imamura follows the relationship between Kinta, a boy who falls victim to his misplaced trust of others, and Haruko, a girl who gains a new self-reliance. But the film is also “a brilliant protest against the continuing American military occupation of Japan.... Kinta and his fellow would-be mobsters live off the black market graft nurtured by the base and, in symbolism that never suffers for its obviousness, raise hogs to be fed on the garbage of the American base, just as the Japanese have been force-fed the garbage of American culture since the war.... The Americans are of course the ‘pigs’ of the title, for they truly behave like pigs toward the Japanese.... But the pigs are also these Japanese yakuza themselves, since not only do the Americans abuse them and treat them as something less than human beings, but they themselves have been tempted by the greed and the example set by the occupiers. If the Americans are amoral, their petty yakuza imitators who would live off the leavings of their profligate wealth are equally so.”

—Joan Mellen, "The Waves At Genji's Door--Japan Through Its Cinema"

• Directed by Shohei Imamura. Written by Hisashi Yamauchi. Photographed by Shinsaku Himeda. Art Direction by Kimihiko Nakamura. Music by Toshiro Mayuzumi. With Hiroyuki Nagato, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Masao Mishima, Tetsuro Tanba, Shiro Osaka, Takeshi Kato, Shoichi Ozawa, Yoko Minamida, Hideo Sato, Eijiro Tono. (1961, 108 mins, Cinemascope, 35mm, English titles, Print courtesy of The Japan Film Library Council)