A certain type of cinephile weeb (hello) holds maybe no post-New Wave Japanese director more highly than Shinji Somai, but it’s the nature of such fandom that his brilliance––expertly plotted, emotionally precise films shot in some of the most incredible long takes (Lost Chapter of Snow: Passion should be the benchmark)––has never quite escaped westward. (Worth noting he was a commercial and critical smash in Japan: Sailor Suit and Machine Gun was Japan’s top-grossing film in 1981, while Typhoon Club won the Tokyo Film Festival’s Grand Prix.) Having seen all of Somai’s films on, with few exceptions, ruddy DVD rips, it’s amazing to watch the trailer for “Rites of Passage,” an inaugural North American retrospective starting April 28 at New York’s Japan Society––it simply never seemed they’d be in this state. (Six of the 13 that have been restored, at least.)
Obviously this is uncharted waters for even the more adventurous reader, so: Criterion Daily does a nice job summarizing Somai’s importance for Japanese filmmakers, noting the affection he’s received from Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Shinji Aoyama, and Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, the latter of whom has a rather emphatic quote in this preview. On a broader, non-New York scale, one hopes the digital availability of these movies begins some larger rollout. For now I’ll take advantage of the geographic position.
Watch the trailer below: