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A Visit to Ogawa Productions

by Oshige Jun' Ichiro, Director; produced by Yasui Yoshio
First Run/Icarus Films. Brooklyn, NY, 2001
VHS, col., 62 mins.
Sales, $390.00; rental, $100.00
Distributor’s website:

Reviewed by Michael R. (Mike) Mosher
Saginaw Valley State University


The Japanese film director Nagisa Oshima (b. 1932) has a wide ranging curiosity that he has translated into memorable imagery. In the Realm of the Senses (1976) explored red-hot erotic obsession to the point of asphyxiation and mutilation in a single bordello bedchamber in 1930s Tokyo. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) featured a British officer––played by David Bowie––executed by burial in tropical sands up to his neck for the impertinence of kissing the officer holding his troops captive.

A Visit to Ogawa Productions documents a 1981 visit by Oshima to the green countryside of Yamagata, where the filmmaking collective led by Shinsuke Ogawa (1935-1992) was immersed in the research and production of A Japanese Village: Furuyashikimura, their feature-length documentary on the seasonal cycle of rice cultivation. After a brief stroll into the village, greeting a couple of farmers and curious kids, Oshima goes indoors and sits down opposite Ogawa and a couple of his collaborators.

The phrase "talking heads" describes this film as the conversation takes place in front of a single camera, usually set on a single medium shot of the men around a table. This is a serious hour-long discussion. It’s about rice, and what Ogawa and crew have learned that it takes to effectively grow it, and what it took for the filmmakers to learn about the slice of society that grows rice for the Japanese nation. Less existentially effusive than My Dinner With Andre, there is none of the visual novelty of the fictional Oshima movies recalled above to be found here, just men talking of the sturdy crafts of food and responsible documentary cinema production as the stationary camera rolls.

A Visit to Ogawa Productions is a document of Oshima picking the mind of another filmmaker, one who was immersed in agricultural details. Perhaps the footage of the conversation was originally intended to serve Oshima as reference material for an unmade fiction film set in a rural rice-farming milieu.



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