Rebel Within the System: Subversive Style in Four Films by Nagisa Oshima


Nagisa Oshima is a rare figure in film history because he was able to maintain a high level of autonomy in his filmmaking even though he was making highly political, wildly iconoclastic, and technically daring films, all while still managing to make money for his studio. The most remarkable thing about Oshima’s style is its fluidity throughout his career—it changed dramatically from film to film. As Japanese film scholar Donald Richie puts it “Each film looks rather different...critics who write about him have their job cut out for them. It’s a problem.” This is exactly the problem I am confronting in this paper by looking at both the narrative content and cinematic style in four widely varied Oshima films, Cruel Story of Youth, Burial of the Sun, Violence in the Afternoon, and Realm of the Senses, breaking down their stylistic idiosyncrasies while also examining the inter-relationship of form and content in each. My argument is that Oshima was never, as has been frequently claimed, merely a sensational filmmaker who maintained his popularity through exploitational shock value, nor was he a director who varied his style willfully, merely trying to keep critics and audiences off-balance by playing with technique, but rather was an artist who carefully chose—and then brilliantly executed—a specific style for each of his films based on the dual demands of its narrative and political content.

Author Information
Allen Walzem, Hokkaido Bunkyo University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: MediAsia2022
Stream: Film Direction and Production

This paper is part of the MediAsia2022 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Walzem A. (2022) Rebel Within the System: Subversive Style in Four Films by Nagisa Oshima ISSN: 2186-5906 – The Asian Conference on Media, Communication & Film 2022: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon