Eros + Massacre | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Eros + Massacre

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Said to be the most important work of the Japanese new wave, this beautiful and provocative 1969 feature by Yoshishige Yoshida intertwines two narratives for a dialectical examination of love and politics, the individual and society. One, set in the early 20th century, is based on the life of anarchist Sakae Osugi, who advocated free love as part of his philosophy of personal liberation; the other, set in the 60s, concerns a journalist who emulates Osugi with two lovers, one a voyeur. Yoshida uses a variety of devices to distance us from the action, including scenes staged as theater, incidents presented in several different ways, and characters from the past popping up in the present. Yet the film is held together by his sensitive use of black-and-white 'Scope: filling space with water, cherry blossoms, or urban surfaces, he casts his characters adrift on the screen just as the editing floats them across time. The film implicitly rejects what the actual Osugi called the "conscious destruction of past cultural residue" in favor of a more nuanced understanding of human contradiction, and in their quest for freedom the protagonists are foiled by the social order and their inherent limitations, becoming alienated from each other and themselves. In Japanese with subtitles; the 35-millimeter print being shown, which runs about 170 minutes, may be the only surviving copy of the film. Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, Saturday, May 11, 7:00, and Wednesday, May 15, 6:30, 312-846-2800.

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