Johns Hopkins Gazette: July 10, 1995

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

     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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