Nippon Katsud Shashin (‘Nikkatsu’ for those in the know) was founded in 1912, making it Japan’s oldest major film studio. With over 3,300 productions to its name Nikkatsu studios has been pivotal in the development of sound within cinema in Japan, helped the emergence of numerous directors, screenwriters, producers, and actors, and worked hard to survive the fallout of World War II. Becoming known for its youth film of the 1950s and crime films of the ‘60s, the studio eventually fell prey to the invasion of home video in the late ‘70s, forcing the company to focus on ‘Roman Porno’- soft-core erotica- before eventually declaring bankruptcy in 1993.
But never fear- Nikkatsu is back! In 2010 a new-look studio was opened and production began on a film series, ‘Sushi Typhoon’.
Home Village (1980) follows the rise of Yoshio Fujimura, a talented young singer noticed by a “society lady” who helps him achieve his dream, and the fall of his maid Ayako who is in love with him. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, the film showcases his love for long takes and the perfect mise-en-scene whilst also incorporating an uncharacteristic (for Mizoguchi) amount of close-ups and montage sequences. Home Village also marks the first use of sound in a Nikkatsu film.
Profound Desires of the Gods (1968) is a culmination of Shohei Imamura’s pre-occupation with the lower strata’s of Japanese society, dominant throughout his work in the 1960s. Set on a seemingly lost and incredibly small island, the film follows the Futori family who are greatly inbred, believe in the Old Laws, and are ridiculed by the other few families on the island. With the arrival of an engineer to build a well, the barely-there truce shatters, sending the island into disaster.