With the centennial of his birth this year, Promethean director Kon Ichikawa (1915-2008) is due for a revival. The upcoming Tokyo International Film Festival is accordingly screening three of his films in its new Japanese Cinema Classics section.
One is “Enjo” (“Conflagration”), a 1958 film based on a Yukio Mishima novel that was in turn inspired by a true incident: In 1950 a mentally disturbed novice monk set fire to Kyoto’s Temple of the Golden Pavilion, an architectural and cultural treasure, and it burned to the ground. Among the best of Ichikawa’s many literary adaptations, the film delves into the consequences of private sins leading to indictable crimes — one of his signature themes. TIFF will premiere a digitally restored 4K print of the film.
The festival is also presenting “Japan and the Japanese,” a documentary Ichikawa made for the 1970 Osaka Expo. The visually inventive director shot the 20-minute film for projection on eight split panels, but at TIFF it will be shown on one screen. Another Ichikawa rarity in the program is “Yowamushi Chinsengumi,” a 1935 animated short assumed lost until a print came to light last year.
In other good news for Ichikawa fans, Marty Gross Film Productions will release a subtitled DVD of “Kyoto,” made from a new color print. This 1968 documentary was shot in Japan’s ancient capital over a period of 18 months, with a soundtrack by Toru Takemitsu, script by poet Shuntaro Tanikawa and English narration by actor Michael Redgrave.