American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre Presents...
Making Movie History for Over 80 Years!


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Series compiled by: Chris D. and Marc Walkow, based on a larger retrospective originally presented at the 2005 Udine Far East Film Festival curated by Mark Schilling.
Special Thanks to: Mark Schilling; Marc Walkow/ OUTCAST CINEMA; NIKKATSU FILMS; JANUS FILMS; Yoshihiro Nihei/THE JAPAN FOUNDATION.

 

 

SOLD OUT SCREENINGS: There will be a waiting line for Sold Out screenings. Tickets often become available at the door the night of an event.

Sold out programs will be indicated here if sold out 24 hours in advance of screening date.

 

 

All guests are subject to availability. The Cinematheque will offer a refund due to guest cancellations only IF the refund transaction is complete PRIOR to the start of the show.

Tickets available 30 days in advance. Tickets are $10 general admission unless noted otherwise.
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The American Cinematheque is a non-profit 501 (C) (3) organization.
The Film Programs of the American Cinematheque are presented at the magnificently renovated, historic 1922 Grauman's Hollywood Egyptian Theatre. Located at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard.
Photo Credit: Randall Michelson. Detail of Egyptian Theatre Ceiling. Barry King. Aero Theatre exterior.

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<<< April 25 - 27, 2008 >>>

Velvet Hustlers & Weird Lovemakers: Japanese Sixties Action Films

Sponsored by The Japan Foundation

This series is an Egyptian Theatre exclusive!

 

Starting in the late 1950s through 1971, Nikkatsu Studios became known as the premier Japanese movie studio for sleek and elegant, gritty yet gorgeous-looking (and frequently surreal) crime-action films. We’ll be showing a stunning selection – a half-dozen of the best, including Toshio Masuda’s GANGSTER VIP and THE VELVET HUSTLER (both starring TOKYO DRIFTER and GRAVEYARD OF HONOR star Tetsuya Watari), Takashi Nomura’s starkly minimalist MY GUN IS MY PASSPORT (with BRANDED TO KILL star Joe Shishido), Koreyoshi Kurahara’s disturbing, jazz-and-delinquent-inflected "sun tribe opus," THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS, Kurahara’s trenchant, neo-realist-inspired tale of a racetrack tout, a whore and her mercenary gangster pimp, GLASS JOHNNY LOOKS LIKE A BEAST (again starring genre fave Joe Shishido) and Yasuharu Hasebe’s yakuza romp ROUGHNECK (with BLACK TIGHT KILLERS star Akira Kobayashi)! None of these films are available on DVD and all are nearly impossible to see here in America. Don’t miss these rare screenings, inspired by a film festival originally curated by Mark Schilling, author of the excellent handbook on Nikkatsu action movies, No Borders, No Limits! All films are in Japanese with English subtitles.

 

 

Friday, April 25 – 7:30 PM

Tetsuya Watari Double Feature:

GANGSTER VIP (BURAI YORI – DAI KANBU), 1968, Nikkatsu, 93 min. Ex-gangster Goro Fujita was the poet laureate of real-life yakuza, penning many fictional as well as reality-based tomes. Ace Nikkatsu helmsman Toshio Masuda directs this first installment of a six-film series based on Fujita’s autobiography, Hoodlum (Burai). Tetsuya Watari (GRAVEYARD OF HONOR) is the young Goro, born into poverty, seeing his little sister and hooker mother die of disease while still a child. All grown up, Goro is called to a bar to defend his boss, but finds that his friend (Kyosuke Machida) from reform school is the assailant. Wounding Machida with his knife lands him in stir; several years later when he’s released, he’s catapulted back into a mob war with unprincipled new boss on the block, Yoshiro Aoki. Masuda was renowned as one of the more serious of Nikkatsu’s action directors, and here he elicits superb performances from all involved, including naïve young heartthrob Chieko Matsubara (BLACK TIGHT KILLERS) who unwisely falls for our antihero. Moodily romantic, yet saturated with an uncompromisingly bleak, noirish worldview, Masuda keeps a perfect balance between the more traditional "honorable" type of yakuza saga and the burgeoning craze for more realistic, true-life accounts of gangland. A must-see! In Japanese with English subtitles.

THE VELVET HUSTLER (KURENAI NO NAGARE BOSHI), 1967, Janus Films, 97 min. Although director Toshio Masuda lensed RED HARBOR (AKAI HATOBA), the original version of this tale with Yujiro Ishihara pre-BREATHLESS in 1958, this color remake shows a marked Godard/Belmondo influence. Tetsuya Watari is a free-wheeling hitman who whistles while he works and likes to sit in a rocking chair on an old pier when he’s not boffing babes or offing his expendable human targets. Tatsuya Fuji, who made a name for himself early on playing delinquent hoods in films like the STRAY CAT ROCK series, does a rare turn here as a dogged police detective. Ruriko Asaoka (GOYOKIN) and Kayo Matsuo (BABY CART AT THE RIVER STYX) are two of the women in Watari’s life – one of whom may end up causing his downfall. And last, but not least, one of our fave Japanese tough guys, Joe Shishido (BRANDED TO KILL), plays a mustachioed backstabber. Famous Nikkatsu production designer Takeo Kimura, renowned for his pioneering work with Seijun Suzuki in the 1960s, brought his amazing visual flourishes to both THE VELVET HUSTLER and GANGSTER VIP. In Japanese with English subtitles.

 

 

 

Saturday, April 26 – 7:30 PM

Joe Shishido Double Feature:

MY GUN IS MY PASSPORT (KORUTO WA ORE NO PASUPOTO) 1967, Nikkatsu, 89 min. Joe Shishido (GATE OF FLESH) and Jerry Fujio are hitmen hiding out in a remote, dust-blown trucker’s inn while waiting for the coast to clear. But, needless to say, complications ensue. Takashi Nomura was a journeyman director at Nikkatsu, who often turned out real gems that went largely unsung or underrated. This is his best, a visually stunning, black-and-white action opus, full of noir atmosphere as well as breakneck set-pieces, all culminating in a pulse-pounding, ultra-violent and surreal climax. Chitose Kobayashi and Ryotaro Sugi co-star. The Nikkatsu publicity department loosely linked this with other black-and-white 1967 Shishido gangster pix, Seijun Suzuki’s BRANDED TO KILL and Yasuharu Hasebe’s MASSACRE GUN. In Japanese with English subtitles.

GLASS JOHNNY LOOKS LIKE A BEAST (GARASU NO JONI – YAJU NO YO NI MIETE), 1962, Nikkatsu, 108 min. Joe Shishido is an ambitious, bike racetrack tout who becomes inadvertently involved in a triangle with a vulnerable prostitute (Izumi Ashikawa) and her brutal yakuza pimp (George Ai). Director Koreyoshi Kurahara reportedly used Fellini’s LA STRADA as a template, taking a decidedly Italian neo-realist approach to this gritty tale of low-lifes scrambling to survive on the ragged edge of nowhere. Shishido projects a bigger-than-life charisma here, a boorish charm and macho swagger comparable in scope to early Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon. Animation maestro Hayao Miyazaki is rumored to have later used female star Ashikawa as a model for some of his anime heroines. In Japanese with English subtitles.

 

 

Sunday, April 27 – 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS (KYONETSU NO KISETSU aka THE WARPED ONES), 1960, Janus Films, 75 min. Director Koreyoshi Kurahara was one of Nikkatsu Studios’ lower-profile trailblazers, a filmmaker enamored of jazz and neo-realist aesthetics, but no snob as far as occasionally helming genre efforts. There had been a number of Japanese "sun tribe" pictures in the mid-1950s, most notably CRAZED FRUIT and PUNISHMENT ROOM, two movies that scandalized parents and teachers with their depictions of an amoral younger generation besotted with hedonism. Although there was supposedly an industry wide moratorium on the genre due to the hue and cry, it was short-lived. By the dawn of the '60s, three more pioneering examples of the sub-genre had emerged, including this Kurahara effort as well as Seijun Suzuki’s EVERYTHING GOES WRONG and Nagisa Oshima’s CRUEL STORY OF YOUTH. Here, delinquent trio Tamio Kawaji, Eiji Go and Noriko Matsumoto victimize a straight young couple, reporter Hiroyuki Nagato (PIGS AND BATTLESHIPS) and fiancée Yuko Chiyo. Kawaji subsequently becomes obsessed with Chiyo, whom he makes pregnant. As a result, the simultaneously repulsed/attracted Chiyo forms an uneasy triangle with violent Kawaji and square, cuckolded beau Nagato. The Japanese title literally translates as "Season of Crazy Heat," and the film received a brief release in America in the mid-1960s from Radley Metzger’s Audubon Films under THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS moniker. By any description, the film lives up to its many assorted titles. In Japanese with English subtitles.

ROUGHNECK (ARAKURE) 1969, Nikkatsu, 86 min. Yasuharu Hasebe (STRAY CAT ROCK -- SEX HUNTER) directed this fiercely kinetic tale of wannabe yakuza youths (Akira Kobayashi, Tatsuya Fuji, et al.). When not cooking up scams with his buddies, Kobayashi develops a crush on Fuji’s disgusted sister, Masako Izumi. But soon the young hoods run afoul of their underworld idols when they rob the wrong gang, led by brutal boss Jotaro Togami. The saga begins with a bumptious comic tone but descends into appropriately grim territory once blood has been shed and mischievous youthful illusions are shattered. When Kobayashi’s pals start to bite the dust, he hooks up with a more traditional yakuza (Ryoji Hayama) to retaliate. Look out for Joe Shishido in a wordless cameo as one of Togami’s most lethal hitmen. In Japanese with English subtitles.