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The Japanese House Film at Barbican

After visiting the Barbican Art Gallery’s exhibition: The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945, SEEN is pleased to announce that Barbican Cinema will complement this beautiful display of Japanese contemporary domestic architecture by holding a season exploring this inspiring subject, and Japan’s unique domestic environment on film with seven screenings starting on 14th May, lasting until 25th June.

‘The Japanese House’ Film Programme will feature the work of Hiroshi Teshigahara, Yasujirô Ozu, Sogo Ishii, Yoshifumi Kondo, Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, plus a rare chance to experience a Silent Film and Live Music screening with live Katsudo-Benshi narration.

Film screenings will start Sunday, 14th May, with ‘Woman of the Dunes’, an adaptation of Kobo Abe’s existential novel. This nightmarish film is set almost entirely inside and on the threshold of a single ramshackle wooden house that is at once prison and vital shelter. Director Hiroshi Teshigahara heightens this claustrophobic premise with an eerily dissonant soundtrack by Toru Takemitsu, and high contrast black-and-white photography which alternately scorches us under a blazing sun or engulfs us in a terrible darkness.

Woman of the Dunes, JAPAN 1964
Woman of the Dunes, JAPAN 1964
On 21st May, Barbican Cinema will screen ‘An Autumn Afternoon’, Yasujiro Ozu’s last work. Known for his gentle domestic dramas about middle-class family life, this film is suffused with a wistful autumnal feeling of things coming to an end, and is considered to be one of his finest. Seen from Ozu’s famously static, low-angle camera, this perspective emphasises the proportions and simplicity of the middle-class home, with the tatami flooring and shoji screens.

Autumn Afternoon_1
An Autumn Afternoon
Autumn Afternoon_LEAD
An Autumn Afternoon

‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ will follow on Saturday, 3rd June. It’s a beautiful hand-drawn animation, based on a 10th-century fable directed by Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, displayed in its original language with English subtitles.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

‘The Crazy Family’ will be screened on 11th June. It is a stunningly twisted comedy of suburban life directed by one of Japan’s wildest talents, Sogo Ishii, who with Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo) and Shozin Fukui (Pinocchio 964) is one of the key directors of the Japanese ‘New Wave’ of the late 1980’s-early1990’s.

’Whisper of the Heart’ is an animated romantic drama film to be screened on Saturday, 17th June. This is the first and last film, based on the 1989 manga of the same name by Aoi Hiragi, which was directed in 1995 by Yoshifumi Kondo, Hayao MIyazaki’s successor at Ghibli, who died suddenly and tragically in 1998.

Whisper of the Heart
Whisper of the Heart

Another manga-based animated film, ’Only Yesterday’ will follow on Saturday, 24th June. This is a realistic drama, written and directed by Isao Takahata, that follows a 27-year-old office worker travelling back to the countryside while reminiscing about her childhood in Tokyo.

Only Yesterday

To close the programme, the silent film ‘I Was Born, But…’ will be shown on Sunday, 25th June, with live narration from Katsudo-Benshi narrator Hideyuki Yamashiro and piano accompaniment by Mia Yanashite. This is one of the few examples of Yasujiro Ozu’s silent period filmmaking which, like his later films, focuses on the internal dynamics of a single family unit as a way of drawing out broader generalisations about contemporary Japanese society, and uses the low-angle camera shots of domestic interiors that would become his stylistic trademark.

SEEN strongly recommends that you to take this great opportunity to enjoy some of the many astonishing features that Japanese architecture, culture and cinema offer to Westerners.