Mariko Okada, Toshiyuki Hosokawa
Minoru Betsuyaku (Coup d'etat), Masahiro Yamada/Kiju Yoshida (Eros & Massacre), Masahiro Yamada (Heroic Purgatory)
Amongst Japanese filmmakers, Kiju Yoshida is most certainly not a household name here in the United States. A contemporary of Nagisa Oshima (Death by Hanging, In the Realm of the Senses), Yoshida began as an assistant to Keisuke Kinoshita before directing his first feature film at age 27 and building a career of more than 20 features and documentaries - all of which have proven difficult to find here in the United States until this collection, Love & Anarchism Limited Edition, arrives in the U.S. on May 9th courtesy of U.K. based distributor Arrow's Arrow Academy label.
The collection three of Yoshida's films that, while not an actual trilogy, are similar in themes of radical politics and an even more radical shooting style. Eros & Massacre is presented in both its 169-minute theatrical version and the director's cut version running 220 minutes. Eros & Massacre tells the story of early 20th-century anarchist and free love advocate Sakae Osugi and a pair of student activists whose stories intertwine and interact with one another and ultimately create what is unquestionably Yoshida's greatest cinematic effort and prized jewel.
Heroic Purgatory pushes the dazzling cinematic language of Eros & Massacre even further, though less successfully, presenting a bleak but dreamlike investigation into the early 70's political discourses taking place in Japan. In the third film presented here, Coup d'etat, we have a biopic of Ikki Kita, a right-wing extremist who sought to overthrow the Japanese government in 1936. The film, which Yoshida to be the culmination of his work, led to Yoshida's retirement from filmmaking following its completion. It would be many years before he would again tackle a cinematic project and future efforts were primarily of a documentary nature.
This seven-disc collection includes a wealth of extras including:
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
- Limited Edition Blu-ray collection (3,000 copies)
- New high definition digital transfers supervised by Kiju Yoshida
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations for all films
- Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM Audio on all films
- New translated English subtitles on all films
- Yoshida …or: The Explosion of the Story – a 30-minute documentary on Eros + Massacre with contributions from Yoshida and film critics Mathieu Capel and Jean Douchet
- Introductions to Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’etat by Yoshida
- Newly-filmed discussions of Eros + Massacre, Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’etat by David Desser, author of Eros Plus Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave, recorded exclusively for this release
- Scene-select commentaries by David Desser on all three films
- Heroic Purgatory theatrical trailer
- Coup d’etat theatrical trailer
- Limited edition packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm
- Illustrated 80-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the films by David Desser, Isolde Standish (author of Politics, Porn and Protest: Japanese Avant-Garde Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s) and Dick Stegewerns (author of Kiju Yoshida: 50 Years of Avant-Garde Filmmaking in Post-War Japan)
The finished collection, while not a flawless digital transfer, should be considered a must-see and must-own collection for lovers of Japanese arthouse cinema. Eros & Massacre is, if not a masterpiece, pretty darn close to one. To have both versions of the film is simply extraordinary and it's doubtful that you will find better packaging than Arrow has assembled here. The theatrical version is the most pleasing to the eye, though the director's cut, as one might expect, is the most cinematically satisfying. Both are amazing cinema.
Heroic Purgatory was a beautiful film to behold, dense and complex, a tad less satisfying than Eros & Massacre yet slightly higher in terms of production quality. Coup D'Etat may be the least compelling of the three films, though it likely also points best to the director's future endeavors. It's more of a thought-provoking film, less visually compelling yet perhaps the film that most benefits from being able to rewatch it.
The collection's extras are incredibly involving and for those less familiar with Yoshida may also prove beneficial for a background in watching and more fully understanding the films. This collection, while initially made available in the U.K., has always been region free and will easily make a successful transition to the U.S. While American moviegoers are likely less familiar with Yoshida, any fan of Japanese cinema should be enthralled by this collection.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic