Eccentric and explosive - the cinema of Sogo ISHII

It's hard to overstate the importance of Sogo ISHII for Japanese cinema. For one, he broke with the tradition of apprenticeship that had always ruled the film industry. Before Sogo ISHII, if you wanted to make films, you applied for a job at a film studio and climbed up the ladder, step by slow, gradual step. When ISHII directed his first film for a studio in 1978 (the remake of his own indie short PANIC HIGH SCHOOL, co-directed with Yukihiro SAWADA), he was still in university and he had been invited on the strength of his award-winning, self-financed independent short films.

ISHII's first solo theatrical feature CRAZY THUNDER ROAD (1980) was originally intended as his graduation project, but was picked up by Toei and released commercially. It changed the rules of the game: suddenly countless young hopefuls with 8mm cameras recognised that it was possible to break into the big leagues on their own terms. CRAZY THUNDER ROAD was epoch-making: to all intents and purposes, a new era in Japanese cinema was born with it.

ISHII's career is often described as encompassing two distinct periods: the "punk years" and the "psychedelic years". Today, however, we could add a third period, which we might call the "journeyman years". Starting with the "Siamese twins" GOJOE and ELECTRIC DRAGON 80,000 V, Sogo ISHII has spent the past decade or so jumping between genres, moods and degrees of experimentation. If his recent adoption of the new moniker Gakuryu ("Mountain Dragon") Ishii is any indication, however, a new period in the career of the most important Japanese filmmaker of the past four decades has just begun. (Tom Mes)

Filmography (Short- und Longfilms)
1976 Panic High School! (Koko Dai Panikku); 1977 Solitude of One Divided by 880,000 (Hachijyuhachiman-bun no ichi no Kodoku); 1978 Charge! Hooligans of Hakata (Totsugeki! Hakata Gurentai); 1980 Crazy Thunder Road; 1981 Shuffle; 1982 Burst City (Bakuretsu toshi); 1983 The Code Name is Asia Strikes Back (Ajia no gyakushu); 1984 The Crazy Family (Gyakufunsha kazoku); 1985 1/2 Mensch; 1989 The Master of Shiatsu (Shiatsu Oja) / Dumb Numb Live Friction 1989; 1993 Tokyo Blood; 1994 Angel Dust; 1995 August in the Water (Mizu no naka no Hachigatsu); 1996 Labyrinth of Dreams (Yume no Ginga); 2000 Gojoe (Gojoe: Gojo Reisenki); 2001 Electric Dragon 80.000V; 2003 Dead End Run (NC '04); 2005 Mirrored Mind (Kyoshin); 2012 Isn't Anyone Alive? (Ikiteru Mono wa Inainoka)

 

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