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campaign image Shochiku 100 (still from Carmen Comes Home (Keisuke Kinoshita, JP 1951))
still from Carmen Comes Home (Keisuke Kinoshita, JP 1951)

Film programme

Shochiku 100

A century of film classics from Japan

3 February — 2 March 2022

still from Sonatine (Takeshi Kitano, JP 1993)
still from Sonatine (Takeshi Kitano, JP 1993)

This centenary programme brings you (rare) screenings on 35mm, live musical accompaniment, stunning digital restorations, introductions by Japan experts and – subject to confirmation – a sake tasting!

Yasujiro Ozu, Masaki Kobayashi, Takeshi Kitano: the masters of Japanese cinema. But did you know that their work was made possible by Shochiku? In 2022 Eye is marking over one hundred years of one of Japan’s oldest, and largest, film companies.

still from Tokyo Twilight (Yasujiro Ozu, JP 1957)
still from Tokyo Twilight (Yasujiro Ozu, JP 1957)
still from Departures (Yohjiro Takita, JP 2008)
still from Departures (Yohjiro Takita, JP 2008)

Shochiku’s importance to Japanese film history is hard to overestimate: since its foundation in 1920, it has produced the first Japanese silent film, the first talkie, the first colour film and the very first Japanese Oscar winner, Departures (2009) – a real milestone. Shochiku was also the first to pay attention to the artistic quality of western cinema, following developments both in Hollywood and the European avant-garde.

Among its many claims to fame, Shochiku is known for its production of shoshimingeki: domestic dramas, made for a female audience and starring big-name actors. Starting in the 1930s, Yasijuro Ozu – who worked almost exclusively for Shochiku – climbed to great heights in this genre. Four of his masterpieces can be seen in Eye, and will also receive a national release: Tokyo Story (1953), The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice (1952), Tokyo Twilight (1957) and Early Spring (1956).

still from The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice (Yasujiro Ozu, JP 1952)
still from The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice (Yasujiro Ozu, JP 1952)

Watch the trailer for the four Ozu restorations:

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still from The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (Masaki Kobayashi, JP 1959)
still from The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (Masaki Kobayashi, JP 1959)

After the war, the studio also offered opportunities to socially committed directors such as Masaki Kobayashi, who with his magnum opus The Human Condition (1959/1961) created a monument to the anti-war movement.

A surprising development, in the early 1960s, was the arrival of a new generation of filmmakers who took to the streets, including Nagisa Oshima (Night and Fog in Japan) and Kiju Yoshida (Good-for-Nothing). Their unpolished, playful style of filmmaking was referred to as the ‘Shochiku Nouvelle Vague’.

still from Good-for-Nothing (Kiju Yoshida, JP 1959)
still from Good-for-Nothing (Kiju Yoshida, JP 1959)
still from Sonatine (Takeshi Kitano, JP 1993)
still from Sonatine (Takeshi Kitano, JP 1993)

In the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the studio made the longest-running TV series ever (Tora-san, 1969-1995) and introduced a second new wave of pioneering makers. Takeshi Kitano took the festival circuit by storm with sensitive arthouse productions, comedies and ‘nouvelle violence’ films such as Sonatine (1993).

These days, Shochiku is no longer active as a film studio; it does however act as a co-producer, distributor and the owner of Movix, a national chain of state-of-the-art multiplex cinemas.

still from Crossroads (Teinosuke Kinugasa, JP 1928)
still from Crossroads (Teinosuke Kinugasa, JP 1928)
still from Night and Fog in Japan (Nagisa Oshima, JP 1960)
still from Night and Fog in Japan (Nagisa Oshima, JP 1960)
poster Shochiku 100: A century of film classics from Japan

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Shochiku 100 was compiled in cooperation with curator and Japan expert Dick Stegewerns.

Made possible in collaboration with:

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