Nagisa Oshima Peter Cowie - Essay

Peter Cowie

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Oshima's [The Man Who Left His Will on Film and The Ceremony] represent the two directions of his thinking. The Man Who Left His Will on Film is totally absorbed in the student struggle for power in the Tokyo of the late Sixties, and its style is correspondingly harsh and febrile, like Shinjuku Thief. The Ceremony, however, has the formal appeal of emotions recollected, sifted, assessed….

The Man Who Left His Will on Film is in black-and-white, and shot mostly with a hand-held camera. The Ceremony is in scope and colour, its starched gatherings recalling Ozu. Yet both films are obsessed with suicide…. In the earlier work, Oshima is using film as a weapon, creating a powerful dialectic in the conversations between Motoki and his girl friend Yasuko until the truth … seems impossible to disentangle from illusion. In The Ceremony, Oshima emphasises the artificial atmosphere of much Japanese ceremonial, which allows the inhibited national spirit to accept militarism and xenophobia—feelings that in daily life would be rejected.

"For me," says Oshima, "The question of how to die in the Seventies is an answer to the question of how to live." With these two films, he shows himself to be the first director who can reflect the contemporary mood of protest while understanding the legacy of the past.

Peter Cowie, "'The Man Who Left His Will on Film' and 'The Ceremony'," in International Film Guide 1972, edited by Peter Cowie (copyright © 1971 by The Tantivy Press), Tantivy Press, 1972, p. 184.