A programme of films by legendary Japanese film-maker Masao Adachi will be screened at Gasworks from May – July 2012 alongside Eric Baudelaire's exhibition. The series is co-programmed by Julian Ross, a freelance film programmer and PhD candidate at the Centre for World Cinemas, University of Leeds. Details below:
Tuesday 10 July, 7pm
Prisoner/Terrorist (2007, 113min, with English subtitles)
During a suicide attack on an airport, the hand grenade of 'M', one of three terrorists, malfunctions and he is captured. Maltreated in prison, he slowly loses his grip on reality, as is forced to confront his ideological convictions. Prisoner/Terrorist was Adachi’s first film in 35 years and is inspired by Japanese Red Army member Kozo Okamoto, who was imprisoned by the Israeli government after perpetrating the infamous massacre at Lod Airport in 1972.
Politically-motivated Japanese filmmaker Masao Adachi's first feature in over three decades tells the tale of an imprisoned terrorist who is forced to confront his ideological convictions head-on after failing in his mission and being subjected to gross treatment while held as a detainee. "M" was one of three terrorists involved in a suicide attack on a high-profile airport. Unfortunately for "M," his grenade failed to detonate. Immediately captured and thrown in prison, "M" gradually loses his grip on reality as a result of his maltreatment, and begins to question the ideas that drove him to attempt the ultimate sacrifice. Inspired by the true-life story of Japanese Red Army member Kozo Okamoto, who was jailed by Israeli soldiers after perpetrating the 1972 Lod Airport Massacre, Adachi's film isn't concerned with the details of the actual event but the manner in which man can be driven to extremes by a blinding belief in political dogma, and the ways in which solitary confinement can draw those beliefs out of the darkness for closer examination.1
Prisoner/Terrorist marks a new style and approach for Adachi. Retrospective in nature, the film is removed from the reassured political bravado of earlier films such as The Red Army / PFLP: Declaration of World War (1971). In it's place is the far more reflective film which weighs up the personal sacrifice of committing your life to a political cause. In an interview with film curator Jasper Sharp Adachi commented:
'The reason I chose this particular theme for my cinematic work Prisoner/Terrorist is that I wanted to look back upon my experiences from the last 35 years, and from there to sum up my own theoretical ideas and the experiences gained from my other activities, both relating to the revolution and other matters.'
'I have tried to talk about the notion of freedom for a human being by drawing parallels between terrorist activity and state-terrorism (including prison itself, security intelligence, the prison guard system, and so on). In this film, I can honestly say, I most concentrated on the theme of what happens to the personal inner world of a person - the world of individual belief, confidence, and thought - by expressing the discrepant lag of space/time in relation to the outer/inner sense of temporality of so-called terrorist life, of time under torture and incarceration, and the temporality of real society, that is, in the real world outside of prison.'2
1 All Movie, Prisoner/Terrorist: Jason Buchanan (2007), Retrieved 30th May 2012 http://www.allmovie.com/movie/prisoner-terrorist-v419067
2 Midnight Eye, Interview Masao Adachi (2007), Retrieved 30th May 2012 http://www.midnighteye.com/interviews/masao_adachi.shtml
Tuesday 22 May, 7pm
Galaxy (1967, 75min, with English subtitles), with an introduction by Julian Ross.
Produced by former members of the Film Club of Nihon University, Galaxy shows Adachi's surrealist roots. It begins with a car breaking down on a seafront in Japan. Whilst the passengers try to fix it, a young man amongst them begins to dream and meets doubles, demons, and figures from history.
Galaxy (Gingakei), in many ways, embodies a transitional point in Adachi’s direction as a filmmaker. Many of his fellow society members offered production support, and in a sense the film could be construed as a continuation of the activities of the Nihon University Film Studies Club. Although at this point Adachi was already involved with Wakamatsu, the film was produced as the inaugural title for the Theatre Scorpio, where people began to take pink cinema seriously. Yet, Galaxy is quite unlike anything else Adachi has been involved in before or since, a substantial piece of art cinema that reveals the singularity of the filmmaker’s vision.
What is most remarkable about Galaxy is its continuous ability to discover a film language of its own and its command of the abstract universe it has envisioned. Visual tricks unremittingly throw the main character in and out of spaces, always using captivating stylistic methods delivered with playful confidence. Characters emerge out of splatters of paint or from beneath a river, only to altogether disappear, and figures are frozen in position while their surroundings abruptly transform. A sequence on an enormous set of stairs plunges the protagonist into a real sense of bewilderment and conveys a depleted sense of self due to the mischievous tricks the monk, allegedly his father, plays on him. The soundscape, orchestrated by Yasunao Tone, who performed for Japan’s first improvised music collective, Group Ongaku, and who later joined Fluxus, interweaves different aural flickers to further layer the muddled haze. The dialogue, its content unfathomably cryptic, is often delivered in whispers, overlapped with other voices and distorted to accompany the racket of sound arrangements. Yet, amid this cacophony of noise and images, there is a certain clarity and a defiant urge for innovation that sustains the film and makes Galaxy a standout title in the overcrowded line-up of dreamscapes in the history of cinema. 1
1 Electric Sheep Magazine, Galaxy (2011), Retrieved 31th May 2012
Wednesday 27 Jun, 7pm
The Red Army / PFLP: Declaration of World War (1971, 69min, with English subtitles)
Directed by Masao Adachi & Koji Wakamatsu
The Red Army... was made by Masao Adachi & Koji Wakamatsu in 1971 in Beirut, in collaboration with a newly-emerging Japanese Red Army (JRA) cadre and leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Together they produced this newsreel-style depiction of the everyday activities of Palestinian fighters, which they intended as a 'declaration of world war'.
This rarely seen work is a milestone in militant filmmaking and vital testimony to an era of global revolutionary beginnings. Renowned, already notorious Japanese filmmakers and activists Masao Adachi and Koji Wakamatsu stopped in Beirut on their return from the Cannes Film Festival in 1971. There, in collaboration with a newly-emerging Japanese Red Army (JRA) cadre and leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) including Ghassan Kanafani and Leila Khaled, they produced this newsreel-style depiction of the everyday activities of Palestinian fighters so as to call for a worldwide Maoist revolution. The Red Army... offers a rare and tantalising window on a key chapter of collaboration between Japanese and Palestinian revolutionaries and filmmakers and remains striking testimony to the shared optimism and commitment of the PFLP and JRA’s young cadre.1
'It was a critique of the armed struggle line of the entire left of the time, including the JRA. The film was actually critiquing the falsity of the so-called “theory of the world-in-transition” and the way of thinking entrapped by the mysticist illusion of building up an army. How should the actual armed struggle be? As I immediately realized it once I was in Palestine, the popular armed struggle was not separated from people’s everyday lives, as was the case in Vietnam.' Masao Adachi 2
Being a fusion of intense agitation and the ‘landscape theory’ approach inherited from “Aka. Serial Killer,” the film was conceived as a new form of news report, and was discussed in synchronicity with J-L Godard’s Dziga Vertov Group and the revolutionary films of Latin America, transcending geographical distances. In order to negate the conventional idea of a film screening, the Red Bus Film Screening Troop was organized and the film screening was acted out nation-wide. The English and French subtitled versions were produced and the film has been screened internationally, including in Palestine. The film is important in the sense that it was an embodiment of the collaboration between Japanese filmmakers and Palestinians in that era, and also as a historical document of Palestine, where constant bombings made it hardly possible for Palestinians to possess their own images.3
The film consistently offers up comparisons to the terrorist activities present in today's society. Providing an insight into the struggles and thought processes of group members, we are presented with the difficulties of documenting political events and the resulting impact it can have when dispersed globally.
1 Barbican, Three films on the themes of cultural identity, resistance and revolution (2010), Retrieved 26th May 2012 https://www.barbican.org.uk/film/event-detail.asp?ID=10630
2 Nihon Cine Art, Empire and Revolution - Conversation Between Masao Adachi and Takashi Sakai (2009) Retrieved 26th May 2012 http://eigageijutsu.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03/empire-and-revolution-conversation.html
3 Foreignmoviesddl.org, The Red Army/PFLP: Declaration of World War (1971) (2010), Retrieved 26th May 2012 http://forum.foreignmoviesddl.org/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=12342&view=previous