Imamura's Profound Desires of the Gods from Eureka
Just back at home a few days from a 10-day break in Kenya en route to my next stop on a work/research trip to Japan, and while I should be busy unpacking my shorts, swimming trucks and suntan lotion in exchange for clothing more suitable for the icy climbs of Hokkaido where I’ll be heading on Wednesday for Yubari film festival, I just couldn’t contain myself at the news, which reached me via the Wildgrounds website, that UK label Eureka are to release Shohei Imamura’s Profound Desires of the Gods on Blu-Ray in May as part of their Masters of Cinema series.
Profound Desire of the Gods
Yes, it’s slightly annoying that this is only on Blu-Ray, but on a more positive side, this is the first time that I’ve felt the Blu-Ray I’ve had hooked up to the HD TV for the past 9 months has actually been necessary. Imamura’s film is a beautiful-looking work, shot in vibrant colours in verdant, tropical climes, all in expansive widescreen NikkatsuScope. This is a film I’d been waiting to see ever since I first read about it about ten years ago while researching the Imamura chapter of The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film. It’s true, while I was living in Japan, I could quite easily have rented the VHS and watched it without subtitles, but from what I’d read, this film was so close to my own interests and tastes that I wanted my first encounter with it to be a little more special, which is the main reason for getting involved in the Imamura showcase at Bristol’s Arnolfini last October (see my thoughts on the retro), to actually bring a subtitled print across to the UK. Well, the film was everything I’d hoped for and more, from the bizarre opening sequence of a pig being throw into the sea as a sacrifice to be feasted upon by sharks to the coda set on the ludicrous tourist train, and caused much discussion with the other viewers at the Arnolfini after the screening finished. This is an utterly one-off work, and I am trembling in anticipation at seeing it up on a screen again. I can’t emphasize how much I love the films of Shohei Imamura. This is among the best, ranking in my books alongside Pigs and Battleships and The Ballad of Narayama. Imamura is pretty well-represented on region 1 DVD, but I just hope this Eureka release garners enough attention and excitement for further UK releases of his films. These really benefit from being seen as a large a screen in as high resolution as possible.
Profound Desires of the Gods
I do remember suggesting this title to Masters of Cinema quite a few years ago, so whether they took my advice, or were inspired by the Imamura season last year, or already had it under consideration anyway, I don’t know. I’m just ecstatic it’s imminent. Now its time to work on the next campaign to spread the word outside Japan about forgotten or unknown classics from forgotten or unknown filmmakers, and the next candidate is Susumu Hani, a director who I am quite flabbergasted that Western distributors or film curators have not picked up on yet. Following the Tomu Uchida season, Alex Jacoby and I pitched a retrospective of this figure to the British Film Institute, but didn’t get any response at all – the powers-that-be there obviously think it safer to stick with what they know, so we get Ozu and Kurosawa retrospectives again this year. Anyway, keep your eyes fixed on Midnight Eye, as you’ll find out plenty more on Hani there in the coming month or so.
In the meantime, as mentioned, I’m off to Tokyo tomorrow, and to Yubari Film Festival on Wednesday, from which I hope to post updates about the good films on offer there. I also hope to post a bit more on some other Eureka releases which I’ve not had time to write about yet, so I hope to be rather more active on this site than I have been over the past month or so.