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Reviving Somai Shinji


Tokyo FilmEx concluded over the weekend. I was not able to attend, but I did write an essay for the catalog for their small Kawashima Yuzo retrospective. The other big retrospective they did was of the films of Somai Shinji, arguably the best Japanese director who is still not sufficiently known abroad. Somai was Japan's next master of the long take, after Mizoguchi Kenji, but since he worked a lot in youth film, a neglected genre, his work was not picked up by the arbiters of taste introducing Japanese film abroad in the 1980s. I personally think Typhoon Club, his brilliant evocation of youthful anxiety and death, is one of the greatest Japanese films ever made, but no one has ever tried to release it abroad with English subtitles. 

Probably in time with the FilmEx retro, a new anthology on Somai, entitled Yomigaeru Somai Shinji, has been published in Japanese. (The English subtitle is "A Film Director in the Japanese Post-Studio Era.") As if emphasizing the above issue, the obi for the book declares: "The world still does not know Somai." It will take some more work in other languages for that to happen, but hopefully this book is a step. 

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