On Culture: Series of 1950s Films Reflects Social Fallout Following Hiroshima Mike Field ------------------ Staff Writer The cataclysmic end of the Second World War and the bombs that announced the nuclear age are the theme of this year's summer film series at the East Baltimore campus, sponsored annually by the Medical Institutions Office of Cultural Affairs. A series of four films, presented on four successive Monday nights in July, will explore the idea of remembrance by looking at how French, Japanese and American filmmakers dealt with the end of the war in Japan a decade after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The films, which will run July 10 to 31 at 7:30 p.m. in the Preclinical Teaching Building auditorium at Wolfe and Monument streets, are free and open to the public. "We're not interested in depicting the event of the bomb itself," said Albert Liu, a graduate student in the Humanities Center who is acting as coordinator of this summer's film series. "What we have is a series of films shown in chronological order that depict how the bomb was remembered in the 1950s. The series explores the memory of the bomb, and as such is not a commemoration but a remembrance of the way these events and ideas are portrayed in film." Each film will be followed by a moderated lecture and discussion for audience members who wish to discuss what they've seen and relate it to the thematic content of the series. Liu will lead the discussion about the last film in the series, the French classic "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" to be presented July 31. "This film ties in perfectly with the first film in the series, 'Kiss Me Deadly'," Liu said. "They both contain something of the erotic and sexual fascination with catastrophe. They both dwell on the intertwined concepts of love and death." Originally produced in 1955, "Kiss Me Deadly" is a black and white film noir masterpiece based on Mickey Spillane's private eye Mike Hammer. "In one sense the movie has nothing to do with Japan, but everything to do with nuclear conspiracy," Liu said. "A woman dies early in the movie saying 'Remember me,' and the theme of remembrance--of remembering the unrememberable--permeates the film and sets the tone for the rest of the series." Between these two bookend films Liu has selected two somewhat incongruous pictures that present Japanese and American filmmakers' take on Japanese society 11 years after the war's end. In "The Burmese Harp" director Kon Ichikawa creates a powerful anti-war drama in the story of a Japanese ex-army private who volunteers to persuade a group of mountain fighters to surrender at the end of the war and undergoes a personal religious experience in the process. Soon, he becomes obsessed with the desire to bury war casualties, in a film that attempts to understand the concept of complete surrender in the context of pre-World War II Japanese militarism. In 1946--the same year "The Burmese Harp" was released-- Marlon Brando played one of his most unusual roles in the third film of the series, "The Teahouse of the August Moon." "This film appears somewhat quaint from our perspective; it's a comedy about the occupation of Okinawa," Liu said. "But Marlon Brando is amazing as a Japanese character. It has to be his most outrageous role. He even speaks with a Japanese accent." Liu refers to Teahouse as "the Broadway comedy perspective on the end of the war," yet even in this film the seemingly insurmountable gulf between two cultures on opposite sides on the nuclear chasm is remembered. In addition to Liu, Humanities Center graduate students J.D. Connor and Maria Farland and WBJC radio host Reed Hessler will each introduce and moderate a discussion after one of the films. The summer film series was begun in 1985 as part of the Office of Cultural Affairs' Humanities Programs. Support for the series comes from the office's general budget, funded by the School of Medicine, the Hospital and through other voluntary sources.
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