Monday, 11 March 2013

Eros + Massacre [1969]

Eros + Massacre, Kijū Yoshida’s magnum opus, was a work of remarkable ambition. Dense, complex, philosophical, surreal, freewheeling, formally audacious, politically incisive, psychologically disconcerting, self-reflexive, filled with symbolisms and running at over 200 minutes – this would rank amongst the most atypical biopics ever made. On one hand, the film was a chronicle of the last few years of the life of Sakae Ōsugi (Toshiyuki Hosokawa), a charismatic and controversial proponent of anarchy and free love who was eventually assassinated by the authorities in 1923 (in what came to be known as the Amakasu Incident), and his fascinating liaison with the three ladies in his life – his demure wife, his ultra-jealous first mistress (Yûko Kusunoki) who tries to kill him in an elaborate and incredibly choreographed sequence, and Noe Itō (Mariko Okada), a feminist who would die with him; on the other, it was also an attempt by two liberated youths in the 60s trying to reconstruct the life of the firebrand anarchist through their personal prisms. Yoshida seamlessly mixed facts with fiction, past with present, and reality with dreams while weaving this intellectually demanding yet viscerally engaging tapestry of political radicalism, love quadrangle (if there’s such a phrase), and the idea of absolute freedom from all societal conventions and bondages. And, in doing so, it also managed to present the zeitgeist of the two eras – particularly the later, more anti-establishmentarian one. Like all his films, it was brilliantly shot and cinematographed, with the expressionistic camera-work perfectly complementing the loopy, ambiguous and deliberately ahistorical storytelling. It didn’t make for easy viewing, but it was a thoroughly memorable experience alright.

Director: Yoshishige Yoshida
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Political Drama/Biopic/Avant-Garde/Experimental Film
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan

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