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Chronicles of Inferno: Japan’s Art Theater Guild

Saturday, February 23, 2013
8:30 p.m. Human Bullet
Kihachi Okamoto (Japan, 1968)

(Nikudan). Best known as a skillful maker of many genre hits, from samurai (Sword of Doom, Kill!) to gangster (Tales of the Underworld) to war (Japan’s Longest Day), the prolific Kihachi Okamoto also specialized in more personal, esoteric films, of which the passionately antiwar Human Bullet stands as one of his greatest. Chronicling the last days and feverish dreams of a reluctant kamikaze at the end of World War II, Okamoto (who spent “three terrible years” as a soldier) expresses the madness and psychological toll of war in ways forbidden in his studio war epics; in fact, he took a leave of absence from Toho in order to film it, working mainly with a small crew of friends and family (his only concession to fame was getting Tatsuya Nakadai to narrate). Sam Fuller by way of Hunter S. Thompson, Human Bullet is war filtered through hallucinogens, utterly paranoid, crazed, and—like a skeleton drifting in a modern Tokyo bay—still haunting. The film was the first of Okamoto’s surprising collaborations with ATG; he would also make Battle Cry (1975) and At This Late Date the Charleston (1981).

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Okamoto. Photographed by Hiroshi Murai. With Minori Terada, Naoko Otani, Chishu Ryu, Tanie Kitabayashi. (116 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From The Japan Foundation, permission Toho)