The buzz surrounding Koji Wakamatsu is spreading across the globe at quite a pace at the moment. I’d like to think that Behind the Pink Curtain had something to do with all this, but the reality is that it is the other way round – I have benefited immensely due to the release of the finest film of Wakamatsu‘s career, and arguably the most important Japanese film of the decade, United Red Army, coinciding roughly with my book’s publication last October. The film is screening in the Cinemafamily theatre in LA this very evening, to be followed by a handful of classics from his pinku eiga period in the 1960s, and French viewers already have the first in a series of box-sets of his work out there on DVD.
My next Wakamatsu-related announcement is something I have had a hand in though, a special selection of pink and Roman Porno films that will be screening at the 50th Thessaloniki International Film Festival. The eleven chosen titles will be shown as part of the PINKU EIGA: BEYOND PINK programme in the Independence Days section, which I put together with critic and festival programmer Lefteris Adamidis. Films to be screened include Kan Mukai’s Blue Film Woman (1969), Masao Adachi’s Gushing Prayer (1971), Mamoru Watanabe’s Secret Hot Spring Resort: Starfish at Night (1971), Tatsumi Kumashiro’s Woods Are Wet (1973) and a selection of Noboru Tanaka films, including the rarely-screened Beauty’s Exotic Dance: Torture! (1977).
I’m going to be heading over to the festival at the end of the next week, which I’m really looking forward to, as I’ve never actually been to Greece before. I hope to pop up a few posts while I’m there. Most exciting of all is that Wakamatsu himself will be coming to introduce United Red Army and three earlier films, Secret Behind the Walls (1965), Running in Madness, Dying in Love (1969) and Shinjuku Mad (1970). I’ve met him on several occasions before, twice at Frankfurt’s Nippon Connection, who have long championed his work, and one particularly surreal night over a drink in a bar in Tokyo’s Golden Gai – I think by now he’s realised I’m not the same person as that certain French Wakamatsu fan who directed Irreversible!
Anyway, its going to be really interesting to see how these films go down with a Greek festival audiences. Several of the programme’s titles I’ve already screened in London, Montreal and Frankfurt, but this will be my first chance to see the new prints of Running in Madness, Dying in Love (1969) and Shinjuku Mad (1970) on a big screen, to me two of his most interesting works, (they’re also playing in LA – so if you see them, feel free to post your comments on them) and am looking forward to catching United Red Army again.
Hopefully this is the first of many airings of Wakamatsu’s films across the world, now that they’ve been newly subbed for foreign distribution (one of the reasons the director was so woefully underrepresented at last years Wild Japan season of Japanese erotic films at the BFI in London). And I’m sure some bold English-language DVD distributor will pick up on them before too long too.