Events & Conventions Movies

Japan Society to showcase Shinji Somai work in upcoming film series

See the work of the iconic director.

(Featured Image Source: via Japan Society)

The Japan Society has announced that their 2023 Globus Film Series will be Rites of Passage: The Films of Shinji Somai, a retrospective spotlighting the works of the pioneering Japanese film director.

Shinji Somai (1948-2001) was a Japanese film director known for pairing depictions of adolescence alongside stylistic scenes, bodies of water, and the chaos of growing up. A prolific creator considered a major part of the 1980s Japanese filmgoer experience. His amazing work has received little recognition in North America. The event will start with the 1985 film Typhoon Club and an opening night party!

7 PM                Typhoon Club with Opening Night Party
2 PM                P.P. Rider
5 PM                Love Hotel
7 PM                Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (1982 Complete Version)
6 PM                Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (Theatrical Version)
8:30 PM          Luminous Woman
7 PM                The Catch
2 PM                Luminous Woman
5 PM                P.P. Rider
7:30 PM          Tokyo Heaven

The Film Synopsizes

Typhoon Club
『台風クラブ 』 (Taifu Kurabu)
Friday, April 28 at 7:00 PM; Screening followed by Opening Night Party.
Dir. Shinji Somai, 1985, 115 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Youki Kudoh, Yuichi Mikami, Yuka Onishi.
World Premiere of 4K Restoration. Shinji Somai’s beloved cult film Typhoon Club is widely heralded as the director’s seminal feature, considered to be one of the greatest Japanese films ever made. Offering a caustic immersion into the lives of disaffected junior high students on the cusp of adulthood, Typhoon Club features a lively cast of young talent—including idol Youki Kudoh (The Crazy FamilyMystery Train)—facing existential intrigues, budding sexuality, and rising social tensions in the days leading up to a typhoon’s arrival. Stranded in their schoolhouse as the storm settles in, the group undergoes an awakening as they dispel all—insecurities, fear and desire—under the swell of the tempest. A Cinema Guild release.

-P.P. Rider
『ションベン・ライダー』 (Shonben Raida)
Saturday, April 29 at 2:00 PM; Saturday, May 13 at 5:00 PM
Dir. Shinji Somai, 1983, 118 min., DCP, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Tatsuya Fuji, Michiko Kawai, Masatoshi Nagase.
“Based on a story by Leonard Schrader (The Man Who Stole the Sun), P.P. Rider follows three friends—Jojo, Jishu and Bruce—who, after witnessing the kidnapping of their class bully, try to rescue their tormentor from the grip of his yakuza captors. Aside from the occasional detour, the trio trail their kidnapped classmate across the country, running into a cast of seedy characters along the way—including a pair of layabout cops and a wiry, washed-up gangster played by Tatsuya Fuji (In the Realm of the Senses). Playful and referential, Somai’s farcical seishun eiga employs a variety of stylistic techniques and gags to offer an escapist summer fantasy of carefree misadventures in turn broaching a darker undercurrent despite its tongue-in-cheek demeanor. A Cinema Guild release.

-Love Hotel
『ラブホテル』 (Rabu Hoteru)
Saturday, April 29 at 5:00 PM
Dir. Shinji Somai, 1985, 88 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Minori Terada, Noriko Hayami.
“Echoes of the past reverberate when an ex-call girl and a debtor meet two years after the desperate and fateful night that first brought them together. An existential study of two lonely and tortured souls, Somai’s torrid pinku eiga follows the pair as they kindle a newfound friendship amid the chaos of their broken and dispirited lives. Somai, who started his career as an assistant director at Nikkatsu in the ’70s, would not direct a feature for the studio until Love HotelLove Hotel is a melancholic entry into the studio’s legendary Roman Porno catalogue, set against the backdrop of a shimmering neon cityscape and soundtracked by Momoe Yamaguchi’s heartrending crooning.

-Sailor Suit and Machine Gun
『セーラー服と機関銃』 (Serafuku to Kikanju)
1982 Complete Version on Saturday, April 29 at 7:00 PM; Theatrical Cut on Friday, May 5 at 6:00PM.
Dir. Shinji Somai, 1981/1982, 112 min. (Theatrical) / 130 min. (Complete), DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Hiroko Yakushimaru, Tsunehiko Watase, Akira Emoto.
Theatrical & Complete Cuts. “Based on the popular youth novel by Jiro Akagawa, Sailor Suit and Machine Gun focuses on the life of schoolgirl Izumi Hoshi (Kadokawa idol Hiroko Yakushimaru) who inherits the reins of a dying yakuza clan and is thrown headfirst into a gangster feud. Vying for respect in an adult world, Izumi takes charge and challenges the violent drug cartel that threatens her clan. Between Somai’s skillful direction, a hit theme song and Yakushimaru herself—dressed in her iconic sailor fukuSailor Suit and Machine Gun had all the makings of a smash hit, emerging as a cultural phenomenon that catapulted Yakushimaru to widespread popularity and perfectly captured the zeitgeist of ’80s Japan.”

Luminous Woman
『光る女』 (Hikaru Onna)
Friday, May 5 at 8:30 PM; Saturday, May 13 at 2:00 PM
Dir. Shinji Somai, 1987, 118 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Keiji Muto, Monday Michiru, Narumi Yasuda.
North American Premiere of 4K Restoration. “A burly hulk of a man (pro-wrestler Keiji Muto) makes his way from Hokkaido to the decrepit trash heaps of outer Tokyo, searching for his beloved in what is perhaps Somai’s strangest feature. When he finds himself pulled into the gladiator pits of a Tokyo nightclub, the mountain man agrees to fight in exchange for information on his lost love. Operating within a bizarre carnivalesque realm of tightrope acts, acrobatic jesters and opera, Somai’s magenta-tinged Luminous Woman inhabits a dreamlike Tokyo underworld populated by tragic figures bearing forgotten hopes and dreams.”

The Catch
『魚影の群れ』 (Gyoei no Mure)
Friday, May 12 at 7:00 PM
Dir. Shinji Somai, 1983, 140 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Ken Ogata, Masako Natsume, Koichi Sato.
Imported 35mm Print. “In Somai’s relentless and near-mythical tale of the high seas, a young man takes on the intergenerational calling of his girlfriend’s family—that of a tuna fisherman. Abandoning his father’s vocation, Shinichi (Koichi Sato) turns to his girlfriend’s father Fusajiro, a leather-faced fisherman played by Ken Ogata, to teach him the ways of the sea but struggles to assimilate to the rugged and callous lifestyle. His doting girlfriend Tokiko finds herself caught in a current of emotional devastation as she tends to both men, witnessing the arduous occupation harden and shape Shinichi as he obsesses over mastering his new trade. Playing out as a family tragedy of repeated cycles of trauma and pain, Somai’s maritime odyssey is a modern-day Melvillian epic.”

-Tokyo Heaven
『東京上空いらっしゃいませ』 (Tokyo Joku Irasshaimase)
Saturday, May 13 at 7:30 PM
Dir. Shinji Somai, 1990, 109 min., 35mm, in Japanese with live English subtitles. With Riho Makise, Kiichi Nakai, Tsurube Shofukutei.
Imported 35mm Print. “Up-and-coming model Yu (Riho Makise) finds her career aspirations abruptly cut off after being run over in a car accident, waking up shortly afterwards in the sweet hereafter. Tricking a heavenly emissary to send her back to earth, Yu returns to a world where she cannot come into contact with those who know of her demise, which includes her lecherous producer who is attempting to cover up news of her death. Befriending lowly salaryman Fumio (Kiichi Nakai), Yu is given a new lease on life as she finds happiness living—not as a campaign idol but as an ordinary teenage girl. Capturing Tokyo at the tail-end of Japan’s Bubble era, Somai’s charming pop fantasy is a lighthearted reflection on the transience of life and the simple pleasures of human connection and existence.”

An exciting film lineup from an iconic director, this will be a great chance to experience his work!

The Japan Society is a cultural organization based in the heart of New York City, connecting Japan’s art, culture, business, and society with others. It was inspired by the Japanese concept of kizuna (絆), their goal is “to forge deep connections to bind people together.” They host a wide range of events and classes in their landmark building (designed by Junzo Yoshimura). The event comes from their film program, bringing Japanese films to those outside the country through events and screenings. It is supported by ORIX Corporation USA, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and endowment support from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund, with additional season support provided by The Globus Family, David Toberisky, Akiko Koide and Shohei Koide, Geoff and Fumi Matters, Laurel Gonsalves, and David S. Howe.

The Rites of Passage: The Films of Shinji Somai will run from April 28 to May 13. You can learn more by setting sail for the event page. While there, check out the other events, services, and mission of the Japan Society.

(Source: Japan Society)

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About Tai

Editor-in-Chief of the Tides. He has contributed articles and helped write for sites across the wide expanse of the internet. Comic book craving, video game playing, Star Wars fanboy at your service. Mention all forms of geekdom and you will have a friend in him.

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