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Masumura Yasuzo, the Sensual Provocateur

Celebrating lunacy in the films of Masumura Yasuzo (1924- 86) is, essentially, an exploration of [...]

Celebrating lunacy in the films of Masumura Yasuzo (1924- 86) is, essentially, an exploration of transgressive individuality and political freedom in the realm of sex and eroticism in Japanese cinema. 

The cinematic adventure of the aesthetic maverick can be traced upon his study at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, where Antonioni, Fellini and Visconti were said to be among his teachers. Returning to Japan to work at the Daiei studio as an assistant to Mizoguchi Kenji and then Ichikawa Kon, he is determined to strip away the sentimentality and lyricism prevailing Japanese cinema, envisioning to reveal the contradictions of life in postwar Japan. Pioneered in his directorial debut, Kisses, his radical fusion of eastern sensibility and western modernity erected a distinctive universe that presents an indictment of social injustice while celebrating liberation of body and soul. Renowned US critic Jonathan Rosenbaum noted how Masumura’s subverted melodramas echoed the critical works by Douglas Sirk and Nicholas Ray. Inspired by his fearless lead in reforming cinema, Oshima Nagisa and Imamura Shohei heralded the 1960s Japanese New Wave.

Ranging from eroticism, capitalist satire, anti-war to gender politics, Masumura's canon is encompassing, deliriously enchanting and challenging in equal measure. He specialised in transforming literary works by celebrated authors, including Oe Kenzaburo, Edogawa Ranpo and Tanizaki Junichiro into riveting dramas with his awe-inspiring visual inventiveness. Embodying his lifelong themes of sexuality and independence is the luscious Wakao Ayako, who exquisitely portrayed the new Japanese woman embracing a passion for truth and a daring expression of naked desires – be it a manipulating lady of erotic obsessions, an irresistible femme fatale who awakens blind imperialism, or an angelic military nurse offering her body for consolation. She stands for what meant to be a human, against a repressive and conformist society.

“There is no such thing as non-restricted desire. A person who thoroughly discloses his or her desire can only be considered mad… I want to create a mad person who expresses his or her desire without shame, regardless of what people think.” In his dazzling body of 58 films, Masumura’s madness transgresses the restraint of desires, opening up a new dimension to regain sight of our true mind.

Acknowledgements

Cinema Heritage: From The Film Foundation

StanisLaw Lem, The Futuristic Philosopher

A giant in the Polish literature world whose work most frequently adapted to film, Stanisław Lem [...]

A giant in the Polish literature world whose work most frequently adapted to film, Stanisław Lem (1921-2006) belongs in the pantheon of the greatest science fiction writers. Comprising a rich collection of novels, stories and essays on futurology and philosophy, his oeuvre – including his most celebrated work Solaris – has inspired generations of artists and filmmakers. In celebration of the centennial of his birth in 2021, declared as the Year of Stanisław Lem in Poland, this tribute series is a recognition to the far-reaching influence of his work on cinema.

What elevated Lem as a visionary writer is his ability to go beyond the artificial allure of science fiction, looking beyond fantastical gadgets to examine the ethical and philosophical impacts surrounding the ramifications of scientific innovations have on the human experience. Solaris was adapted by both Andrei Tarkovsky and Steven Soderbergh – in 1972 and 2002 respectively – into introspective meditation on the nature of memory. Pilot Pirx's Inquest argued that the flaws of human nature can be superior to the calculated perfections of technology. Far ahead of his time, many of the debates in Lem’s works that provoke intellectual thoughts about the uncertain future are even more relevant today, as our world is rushing towards dehumanised technological solutions in the cyber age.

Having lived under the Polish communist regime with his writings subjected to stringent censorship, Lem used his fantastical ideas for stories of otherplanet societies as allegories of totalitarianism, of chaos and the aimlessness of history, and of the vulnerability of human civilisation. Pessimistic in nature, yet at times positive or grotesquely funny, Lem’s humanistic and psychological approach to science fiction has inspired filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick and George Lucas in their radical, mind-bending takes on the genre. In this regard, Lem’s legacy is more than his great linguistic and futuristic invention – he was a philosopher who found humanity in science.

Programme Partner

Kieslowski: The Serendipity of Life

“If film really means to achieve anything – at least, this holds true for me – [...]

“If film really means to achieve anything – at least, this holds true for me – then it’s that somebody might find him or herself in it.” Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski, who passed away at 54, left behind an enormous influence that goes beyond his bare number of films. To mark the 80th anniversary of his birth, we have organised this film course, in two parts, which focuses on his early feature films, and then continue to explore his cinematic language and artistic worldview through his most notable and accomplished works.  

Conducted in Cantonese. Approximately 50-minute lecture

Package Discount: 30% off for 6 sessions; 25% off for 2 sessions or more

Krzysztof Kieslowski Film Course Catalogue: Audience who attends the course is eligible for a complimentary copy of Kieslowski: The Serendipity of Life (Chinese version only)