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Genre: Horror

Duration: 144 Minutes


The Way of the Sword: From boom to bust: Japanese cinema in the 1980s

 Hosted by Ryan Ferguson

Japan was the envy of the world in the 1980s, as the second-largest economy on the planet, Japan became the hub of the global dream. Status and style became the de rigueur stand-ins for culture, and a nationwide party that began in the 60s was hurtling towards its inevitable crash of the early 90s. Under the surface, Japanese filmmakers’ sensitivity to growing angst and isolation of those in a society consumed by surface found their new iconoclast in punk. An often overlooked decade in the history of Japanese cinema that culminated in the cinematic revelations of Akira and Tetsuo, the Iron Man, the films in this program represent a few of the key steps on the path from boom to bust.

Ryan Ferguson

Ryan Ferguson is a film programmer and musician based in Hamilton, ON. He was the lead programmer of the AGH Film Festival between 2014 and 2021 and is the former Curator of Film at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Ryan currently programs the theatrical and special event film screenings at The Westdale. Japanese historical and contemporary cinema is Ryan’s primary area of interest, and ‘The Way of the Sword’ is part of a series of film programs he is developing to provide more exposure to the lesser seen corners of Japanese Cinema.


Horror, Mystery 144 minutes

Japanese with English subtitles

Directed by Seijun Suzuki

In the 1980s, Seijun Suzuki reinvented himself as an independent filmmaker. Freed commercial obligations of studio work, he indulged his passion for the Taisho era (1912–26), a brief period in Japanese history likened to Europe’s Belle Époque and America’s Roaring Twenties. Though not linked by plot, these three films — ZIGEUNERWEISEN, KAGERO-ZA, and YUMEJI — embody the hedonistic cultural atmosphere, blend of Eastern and Western art and fashion, and political extremes of the 1920s, all infused with Suzuki’s own eccentric vision of the time.

Named the best film of the 1980s in a poll of Japanese film critics, the film takes its title from a violin recording by Pablo de Sarasate. The piece haunts the film’s two main characters: Aochi, an uptight professor at a military academy, and his erstwhile colleague Nakasago, now a wild-haired wanderer and possible murderer.

The movie’s plot is a metaphysical ghost story involving love triangles, doppelgängers, and a blurred line between the worlds of the living and the dead. ‘Underlying the teasing riddles,’ writes film critic Tony Rayns, ‘is an aching lament for the sumptuous hybrid culture of the 1920s that was swept away by the militarism of the 1930s’.” (Film Society of Lincoln Center)