In Japan, the cinema was rapidly becoming more sexually graphic and violent, with the pinku eiga, or “pink” film, dominating the marketplace in the late 1960s. “Pink” films were near-pornographic conflations of sex and sadomasochistic violence, such as Kôji Wakamatsu’s Okasareta hakui (Violated Angels, 1967) and Yuke yuke nidome no shojo (Go, Go Second Time Virgin, 1969); these and the equally violent yakuza, or gangster films, attracted much of the nation’s film-going audience. The Japanese New Wave was unlike any other, often steeped in brutality and nihilism. Films such as Nagisa Oshima’s Seishun zankoku monogatari (Cruel Story of Youth, 1960) were stylistically audacious but treated sex as a bartered commodity and displayed a deep misogyny.
Cruel Story of Youth is typical of Japanese New Wave cinema of the period, depicting a world bereft of hope, ambition, or even a shred of compassion. Shohei Imamura’s Nippon konchuki (The
At the same time, the Japanese cinema gave the world one authentically new monster to deal with, the prehistoric, radioactive dinosaur Gojira (Godzilla in the West), whose debut film, directed by Ishirô Honda in 1954, led to a wave of sequels and companion “behemoth” films also directed by Honda, such as Sora no daikaijû Radon (Rodan, 1956, a giant flying
So popular were Honda’s films with international audiences that for many years in the 1960s, a standing miniature set of Tokyo existed at Toho Studios in Japan, ready to be demolished at a moment’s notice. For many years, Honda also functioned as Akira Kurosawa’s second-unit or “action” director, working on the director’s more spectacular epic films.