Tokyo Drifters: 100 Years of Nikkatsu at TIFF Bell Lightbox
Though The Nikkatsu Corporation is Japan’s oldest movie studios, it might be the country’s most innovative and edgiest movie studio. Thanks to the Tokyo Drifters: 100 Years of Nikkatsu programme screening at TIFF Bell Lightbox this winter, Torontonians get a rare retrospective glance into a Japan filled with tough-guy gangsters and bad girls in action-packed crime thrillers, with a dash sexploitation tossed in.
Nikkatsu was founded on September 10, 1912 in Japan’s thriving silent cinema era. However, as in many European film markets, World War II took a tremendous toll on the Japanese film industry. Japan’s 10 studios were forced by government mandate to consolidate into 3 and Nikkatsu was stifled. While the studio continued to prosper as an exhibition company all Nikkatsu film production ceased. The company began making movies again in 1954 and ushered in the Golden Age of Nikkatsu films.
Perhaps unfairly (or not), Japan is not a culture renowned for innovation. Nikkatsu saw a hole in the cinema-going market and by 1960 had devoted its studio resources to capitalizing on the urban youth market. No more historical dramas or samurai films for Nikkatsu! Instead the company constructed a massive new sound stage and actively lured promising new talent away from traditional and stodgy stalwart studios with the promise to advance assistants to full directors quickly. Nikkatsu courted the youth market with brash movies – violent gangster flicks, film noir crime thrillers, loud action movies – that fused the more sensational elements of American genre films with the coolness of French New Wave. And it was good.
To celebrate the centenary of Nikkatsu, TIFF Cinematheque has put together a programme of 12 films to highlight the best of the Golden Age of Nikkatsu. Be sure to check out the site for a complete list of the films and screening times, and stay tuned to Pretty Clever Films for upcoming reviews of Rusty Knife, Tokyo Drifters, and A Colt is My Passport!
Tokyo Drifters: 100 Years of Nikkatsu, along with Japanese Divas: The Great Actresses of Japanese Cinema’s Golden Age and The Catch: Japanese Cinema of the Eighties are screening as part of Spotlight Japan (January – April), a city-wide festival celebrating classic and contemporary Japanese culture for which five of Toronto’s leading cultural institutions came together (the Japan Foundation, TIFF, Canadian Stage, The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and Soundstreams). Find more info at spotlightjapan.ca.