The Japanese film industry formed a strange landscape in the sixties, with often highly-constrained studio filmmakers churning out pulpish B-movies, flanked by an independent scene that grew out from the Japanese New Wave, and highly experimental narrative films from directors better known as visual artists.
Japanese society was evolving at a rapid rate following the fall of the Empire and greater cultural communication with the west. But if London was swinging and the hippies were challenging conventional morality in the States, cultural taboos were tougher to shake in Japan.
Cinema audiences could, however, live out their frustrations vicariously at the movies, where despite tight censorship laws the nation’s progressive filmmakers were pushing the envelope in their expression of love, lust, and all the weirdness in between.
My history of Japanese cinema for Itcher takes 5 movies from every half-decade since 1960, and explores some of the overlapping themes and styles employed by the nation’s greatest filmmakers: