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Chronicles of Inferno: Japan’s Art Theater Guild

Thursday, February 7, 2013
7:00 p.m. Silence Has No Wings
Kazuo Kuroki (Japan, 1966)

Introduction/Roland Domenig

Roland Domenig, University of Vienna, focuses his research on Japanese film history, including independent cinema of the 1960s.

"A film of sympathetic irrationality . . . fascinating in its strangeness."—Positif

(Tobenai chinmoku). Originally scheduled to be released by the studio Toho (yet quickly shelved and labeled a “lunatic film” by studio brass), Silence Has No Wings instead took flight at ATG, where its hypnotic blend of documentary realism and poetic abstraction earned it comparisons to everything from Resnais and Godard to Hitchcock’s The Birds. A Nagasaki butterfly’s impossible journey from Japan’s south to north is traced in visions of the country’s scars, whether physical (Hiroshima’s atomic ruins) or emotional (troubled lovers in Hagi, sexual perversions in Kyoto). Its funereal black-and-white images encompassing both antiwar protests and gangland fights, strip clubs and temples, Silence steadfastly refuses traditional narrative cohesion to instead embrace the irrational and abstract; even its “star,” the stunning Mariko Kaga, flits in and out, as ephemeral as a butterfly’s wings: here releasing mourning lanterns on a river, there waltzing through a temple. Mainly known for his short documentaries made through Iwanami Productions (where Susumu Hani and Shinsuke Ogawa, among others, worked), director Kazuo Kuroki soon became one of ATG’s key artists, with the acclaimed Evil Spirits of Japan (1970) and Assassination of Ryoma (1974).

• Written by Yasuo Matsukawa, Hisaya Iwasa, Kuroki. Photographed by Tatsuo Suzuki. With Mariko Kaga, Minoru Hiranaka, Shoichi Ozawa, Rokko Toura. (100 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 16mm, From The Japan Foundation, permission Toho)