Wednesday, July 28, 2010

VIZ Cinema Does War, Peace, and Revenge in August


The Japanese American Experience In World War II Is Explored In Poignant Documentaries; Action Fans Can Sample Akira Kurosawa Samurai Classics And Gritty Tales Of Betrayal And Vengeance From Korean Director Park Chan-Wook

VIZ Cinema, the nation’s only movie theatre dedicated to Japanese film, opens August with a theme of “The Winding Road to Peace” in a month that marks the 55th Anniversary of both the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the end of World War II.

Throughout August, VIZ Cinema will be a place to ponder humanity’s path from conflict to reconciliation. From films like White Light/Black Rain, which presents a unblinking look at the first time nuclear weapons were used in war from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki, to 442: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity, a heartfelt new documentary that traces the battle that patriotic Japanese Americans faced both at home and abroad in World War II to become one of the most decorated infantry units of the entire war. The Japanese experience in World War II is also explored in films by Kon Ichikawa and Nagisa Oshima including, The Burmese Harp, Fires on the Plain, and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, which stars David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Also not to be missed will be Samurai Saga Vol. 2, a special series presenting some of famed director Akira Kurosawa’s best known samurai films, including Seven Samurai, Rashamon and The Hidden Fortress. August also kicks off with four action packed films from South Korean director Park Chan-Wook, who first gained international attention with his gritty vengeance yarn, Oldboy, which will be among the titles screened at VIZ Cinema this month.

Advance tickets, screening times and more details are available at:

Park Chan-Wook Special
Witness the unforgettable imagery and kinetic action of the award-winning “Vengeance Trilogy” with truly stunning colors presented in High Definition! One of the most acclaimed and popular filmmakers in his native South Korea, Park Chan-Wook’s films are noted for their immaculate framing and often brutal subject matter. General Admission Tickets: $10:00; No discounts apply.

Thirst, July 30th One Day Only!
(Directed by Park Chan-Wook, 2009, 133 minute, Digital, Korean with English Subtitles)

A beloved and devoted priest from a small town volunteers for a medical experiment which fails and turns him into a vampire. Physical and psychological changes eventually lead to his affair with the wife of his childhood friend who is repressed and tired of her mundane life. As the one-time priest falls deeper into despair and depravity and things turn for the worse, he struggles to maintain what’s left of his humanity. R-rated with Explicit content.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, July 31st – August 2nd and also August 5th
(Directed by Park Chan-Wook, 2002, 129 minute, Digital, Korean with English Subtitles)

The first film of Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy,” unable to afford proper care for his sister dying from kidney failure, Ryu turns to the black market to sell his own organs only to end up cheated of his life savings. His girlfriend urges Ryu to kidnap the daughter of wealthy industrialist who recently laid him off. He agrees, but unforeseen tragedies turn an innocent con into a merciless quest for revenge as the men are thrust into a desperate spiral of destruction. R-rated for Explicit content.

Oldboy, July 31st – August 4th
(Directed by Park Chan-Wook, 2003, 120 minute, Digital, Korean with English Subtitles)

Winner of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix, the second of the “Vengeance Trilogy” unfolds the life of Oh Dae-su, an ordinary Seoul businessman with a wife and little daughter, who is abducted and locked up in a strange, private prison. No one will tell him why he’s there or who his jailer is and his fury steadily builds to a single-minded focus of revenge. Suddenly, 15 years later, he is unexpectedly freed and given only 5 days to discover the mysterious enemy who had him imprisoned. Oldboy is based on a Japanese manga series by Garon Tsuchiya and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi. R-rated for Explicit content.

Lady Vengeance, July 31st – August 5th
(Directed by Park Chan-Wook, 2005, 112 minute, Digital, Korean with English Subtitles)

In the final chapter of the “Vengeance trilogy,” after being blackmailed and wrongly imprisoned for 13 years, a beautiful woman is finally set free. Now her brutally elaborate plan for vengeance against the true criminal can begin to unfold R-rated for Explicit content.

White Light/Black Rain, August 6th – 7th
"Compelling and compassionate… a stirring and heart-wrenching statement of the horrible powers that mankind holds in its fist." - The Hollywood Reporter

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki presents an unblinking look at the first time nuclear weapons were used in war. After 60 years, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th, 1945, continue to inspire argument, denial and myth. Featuring interviews with fourteen atomic bomb survivors (known as hibakusha), many who have never spoken publicly before, and four Americans intimately involved in the bombings, White Light/Black Rain provides a detailed examination of the bombings and their aftermath.

Part of ticket sales will be directly donated to the Friends of Hibakusha in Japantown.

The U.S. does not currently offer any free medical treatment programs for atomic bomb-affected individuals.

A special S.F. Theatrical Premiere Event with reception and Q&A with the Friends of Hibakusha takes place on August 6th. General admission tickets are $15.00.

Saturday, August 7th General Admission $10:00; No discounts apply.

Winding Road to Peace: Three War Films by Kon Ichikawa & Nagisa Oshima

The Burmese Harp, August 7th – 10th and also August 12th
Directed by Kon Ichikawa, 1956, 116min, Digital, Japanese with English Subtitles)

An Imperial Japanese Army regiment surrenders to British forces in Burma at the close of World War II and finds harmony through song. A private, thought to be dead, disguises himself as a Buddhist monk and stumbles upon spiritual enlightenment. Magnificently shot in hushed black and white, Kon Ichikawa’s The Burmese Harp is an eloquent meditation on beauty coexisting with death and remains one of Japanese cinema’s most overwhelming antiwar statements, both tender and brutal in its grappling with Japan’s wartime legacy.

Fires on the Plain, August 7th – 11th
(Directed by Kon Ichikawa, 1959, 104min, 35mm, Japanese with English Subtitles)

An agonizing portrait of desperate Japanese soldiers stranded in a strange land during World War II, Kon Ichikawa’s Fires on the Plain is a compelling descent into psychological and physical oblivion. Denied hospital treatment for tuberculosis and cast off into the unknown, Private Tamura treks across an unfamiliar Philippine landscape, encountering an increasingly debased cross section of Imperial Army soldiers, who eventually give in to the most terrifying craving of all – cannibalism. Grisly yet poetic, Fires on the Plain is one of the most powerful works from one of Japanese cinema’s most versatile filmmakers.

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, August 7th – 8th and also August 11th – 12th
(Directed by Nagisa Oshima, 1983, 123min, 35mm, Japanese with English Subtitles)

In this captivating, exhilaratingly skewed World War II drama from Nagisa Oshima, David Bowie regally embodies a high-ranking British officer interned by the Japanese as a POW. Music star Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also composed this film’s hypnotic score) plays the camp commander, who becomes obsessed with the mysterious blond major, while Tom Conti is British lieutenant colonel Mr. Lawrence, who tries to bridge the emotional and language divides between his captors and fellow prisoners. Also featuring actor-director Takeshi Kitano in his first dramatic role, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is a multilayered, brutal, at times erotic tale of culture clash that was one of director Oshima’s greatest successes.

Bay Area Filmmakers Series Vol. 2: Junichi Suzuki War Documentaries
As part of the second installment of VIZ Cinema’s Bay Area Filmmakers Series, the theatre presents director Junichi Suzuki’s documentaries highlighting the Japanese American experience during World War II. Early Bird Ticket Special: Advance Online Tickets $10.00 (Prior to August 13th); After August 13th General Admission will be $13.00; No further discounts apply

442: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity, August 13th – 19th
(Directed by Junichi Suzuki, 2010, 100min, HD, English Language)

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II was composed of Japanese Americans who initially were looked at as a problem because of their race, but were later admired because of their heroism on the battlefields of Europe. They had to fight for not only enemy abroad but also prejudice at home. This is the story of 442nd and their veterans now and then.

Toyo’s Camera, August 13th – 19th
(Directed by Junichi Suzuki, 2008, 100min, HD, English Language)

Filmmaker Junichi Suzuki directs this documentary portrait of photographer Toyo Miyatake, a Japanese-American who smuggled his camera into an internment camp during World War II and captured images that showed the plight of his people.

Kurosawa On Sword Battles - Samurai Saga Volume 2
VIZ Cinema continues a celebration marking the centennial birth of Japan’s most beloved film director – Akira Kurosawa – with SAMURAI SAGA Vol. 2, marking nearly 50 years of big screen samurai action and drama. General Admission Tickets: $10:00; No discounts apply.

Seven Samurai, August 20th – 22nd
(Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1954, 207min, 35mm, Japanese with English Subtitles)

One of the most beloved films of all time, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai tells the story of a sixteenth-century village whose desperate inhabitants hire the eponymous warriors to protect them from invading bandits. This three-hour ride, featuring legendary actors Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura, seamlessly weaves philosophy, entertainment, delicate human emotions and relentless action into a rich, evocative, and unforgettable tale of courage and hope.

Rashamon, August 21st – 25th
(Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1950, 88min, 35mm, Japanese with English Subtitles)

Brimming with action while incisively examining the nature of truth, Rashomon is perhaps the finest film ever to investigate the philosophy of justice. Through an ingenious use of camera and flashbacks, Kurosawa reveals the complexities of human nature as four people recount different versions of the story of a man’s murder and the rape of his wife. Toshiro Mifune gives another commanding performance in the eloquent masterwork that revolutionized film language and introduced Japanese cinema to the world.

Yojimbo, August 23rd – August 28th and also August 31st
(Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1961, 110min, 35mm, Japanese with English Subtitles)

The incomparable Toshiro Mifune stars in Akira Kurosawa’s visually stunning and darkly comic Yojimbo. To rid a terror-stricken village of corruption, wily masterless samurai Sanjuro turns a range war between two evil clans to his own advantage. Remade twice, by Sergio Leone and Walter Hill, this exhilarating genre-twister remains one of the most influential and entertaining films of all time.

Sanjuro, August 25th – August 30th
(Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1962, 96min, 35mm, Japanese with English Subtitles)

Toshiro Mifune swaggers and snarls to brilliant comic effect in Akira Kurosawa’s tightly paced, beautifully composed drama. In this companion piece to Yojimbo, jaded samurai Sanjuro helps an idealistic group of young warriors weed out their clan’s betrayer, and in the process turns their image of a “proper” samurai on its ear. Less brazen in tone than its predecessor but equally entertaining, this classic character’s return is a masterpiece in its own right.

Throne of Blood, August 28h – September 2nd
(Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1957, 109min, 35mm, Japanese with English Subtitles)

One of the most celebrated screen adaptations of Shakespeare into film, Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood reimagines Macbeth in feudal Japan. Starring Kurosawa’s longtime collaborator Toshiro Mifune and the legendary Isuzu Yamada as his ruthless wife, the film tells of a valiant warrior’s savage rise to power and his ignominious fall. With Throne of Blood, Kurosawa fused one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies with the formal elements of Japanese Noh theater to make a Macbeth that is all his own – a classic tale of ambition and duplicity set against a ghostly landscape of fog and inescapable doom.

The Hidden Fortress, August 28h – September 2nd
(Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1958, 139min, 35mm, Japanese with English Subtitles)

A general and a princess must dodge enemy clans while smuggling the royal treasure out of hostile territory with two bumbling, conniving peasants at their sides; it’s a spirited adventure that only Akira Kurosawa could create. Acknowledged as a primary influence on George Lucas’sStar Wars, The Hidden Fortress delivers Kurosawa’s inimitably deft blend of wry humor, breathtaking action and humanist compassion on an epic scale. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this landmark motion picture in a stunning, newly restored Tohoscope edition.

VIZ Cinema is the nation’s only movie theatre devoted exclusively to Japanese film and anime. The 143-seat subterranean theatre is located in the basement of the NEW PEOPLE building and features plush seating, digital as well as 35mm projection, and a THX®-certified sound system.

NEW PEOPLE offers the latest films, art, fashion and retail brands from Japan and is the creative vision of the J-Pop Center Project and VIZ Pictures, a distributor and producer of Japanese live action film. Located at 1746 Post Street, the 20,000 square foot structure features a striking 3-floor transparent glass fa├žade that frames a fun and exotic new environment to engage the imagination into the 21st Century. A dedicated web site is also now available at:

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