Contact: Margot Gerber Tel.: 213/466-FILM , ext. 115


Featuring NEW 35 mm PRINTS of 12 of Kato's finest films including: two from the RED PEONY GAMBLER series, BLOOD OF REVENGE, TOKIJIRO OF KUTSUKAKE, HISTORY OF A MAN'S FACE, and LONG SOUGHT MOTHER

Sponsored by the Japan Foundation

Weekends May 22 - June 6, 1998

HOLLYWOOD-- The American Cinematheque presents SONG OF THE WANDERING GAMBLER: THE FILMS OF TAI KATO (May 22 - June 6), the first major U.S. retrospective of Japanese filmmaker Tai Kato's work ever mounted. Apart from a few early supporters like Paul Schrader (who compared his work to "the best of Sergio Leone") Kato remains almost completely unknown in this country. A master of action-packed samurai and gangster yakuza films, Tai Kato (1916 - 1984) balanced the violence in his films with a powerful sense of longing and loneliness, a strange refrain that seems to haunt all of his characters. Like Budd Boetticher and Don Siegel, Kato made brilliantly-crafted genre films, where every gesture -- the flick of a playing card, the flash of a sword -- carries emotional weight. Highlights of this three weekend series include screenings of brand new 35 mm prints of Kato's greatest films: TOKIJIRO OF KUTSUKAKE - LONE YAKUZA with famed samurai actor Kinnosuke Nakamura and Kiyoshi Atsumi (star of the TORA-SAN movies); HISTORY OF A MAN'S FACE, a dynamic portrait of yakuza mobs struggling for power starring real-life yakuza, Noboru Ando; the explosive masterpiece BLOOD OF REVENGE; and two films (FLOWER CARDS MATCH (#3) and ORYU'S VISIT (#6)) from the brilliant 8-film RED PEONY GAMBLER series both starring the luminous Junko Fuji. This program is presented in conjunction with the California-Japan 2010 Forum Project, a region-wide forum coordinated by various Japanese-related organizations in Southern California. All screenings are at the Raleigh Studios Charlie Chaplin Theater, 5300 Melrose Avenue (between Bronson & Van Ness) in Hollywood. Free Parking on the lot. American Cinematheque 1800 North Highland Avenue, Suite 717, Hollywood, CA 90028 (tel) 213.466.3456 u (fax) 213.461.9737 On the web!!! Page 2  Tai Kato "Do you know what the yakuza world really is? It's where outlaws and drifters gather," warns the melancholy hero of Tai Kato's LONG SOUGHT MOTHER. A master of the yakuza or modern gangster film genre, Japanese director Tai Kato combined dynamic action with subtle, piercing lyricism. Born in 1916 in Kobe, Japan, Kato defied his businessman father's wishes and entered a polytechnic rather than a commercial high school, where his newly discovered thirst for film remained unquenched until he dropped out and moved to Tokyo to look up his film director uncle, Sadao Yamanaka. In 1937, Kato landed a position as an assistant director at Toho Films. After brief service as a soldier, Kato returned to Japan in 1946 to a job as an assistant director at Daiei Films giving him an opportunity to work with his idol, Ito Daisuke as well as on Akira Kurosawa's highly acclaimed RASHOMON. After making his feature directorial debut with the thoroughly modern and mind-blowing, TROUBLE WITH SWORDS, TROUBLE WITH WOMEN at a small independent studio in Kyoto, Kato returned to Toei Studios in 1956. It was during this period that Kato began to attract serious critical attention with an innovative new style of samurai film based on a his own unique realist method filled with extraordinary originality and power. It was because of this strength and unwillingness to compromise his work that Kato often found himself in conflict with top management at Toei. Kato played by his own rules: he made the films he wanted to make, in the style he wanted, with the actors he wanted. A Japanese original, Tai Kato, who died in 1985 "had a unique sense of aesthetics, and always stirred up a sense of competition in me. As I think of his works, I am deeply reminded of the loss of a precious colleague" -- director Kinji Fukasaku. Weekend One: Friday, May 22nd and Saturday, May 23rd , 1998 The Friday, May 22nd program begins at 7:15 PM with a screening of RED PEONY GAMBLER - FLOWER CARDS MATCH (HIBOTAN BAKUTO - HANAFUDA SHOBU) (1969, Toei, 98 min.). Third in an eight-film series, the film stars the luminous Junko Fuji (imagine Audrey Hepburn with a sword and a tattoo) as the Red Peony Gambler, a traveling card player who seems to fall into situations that require her to fight her way out! When she wanders into a bitter struggle between two rival yakuza clans in 1920's Japan, she characteristically takes the side of the underdog. Ken Takakura also stars as a lone wolf who valiantly struggles between his obligation to the villainous clan and his growing love for the woman he fights against. Following at 9:30 PM is a screening of BLOOD OF REVENGE (MEIJI KYOKYAKUDEN SANDAIME SHUMEI) (1965, Toei, 90 min.) starring Koji Tsuruta as a rule bound gangster at the turn of the century who falls in love with a prostitute (Junko Fuji). Their emotionally wrought romance culminates in one of the most explosively over-the-top action scenes in Japanese film. Widely hailed as a masterpiece of the yakuza genre, BLOOD OF REVENGE was described by critic Shigehiko Hasumi as "the drama of a man who lived as a yakuza and a woman who lived as a human being." Page 3  Tai Kato The Saturday, May 23rd program begins at 7:15 PM with a screening of FIGHTIN' TATSU THE RICKSHAW MAN (SHAFU YUKYODEN KENKA TATSU) (1964, Toei, 100 min.). Something like a Jackie Chan film (check out the ridiculous title!), FIGHTIN' TATSU combines rock 'em-sock 'em action with a lovely, heart stopping romance. FIGHTIN' TATSU is Kato at his finest, part melodrama/part comedy: a portrait of a suicidally-stubborn rickshaw puller (Ryohei Uchida) who refuses to play by the local yakuza rules and fights for the woman he loves, a geisha (Hiroko Sakuramachi). Following at 9:30 PM is a screening of a TOKIJIRO OF KUTSUKAKE - LONE YAKUZA (KUTSUKAKE TOKIJIRO: YUKYO IPPIKI) (1966, Toei, 90 min.) starring famed samurai actor Kinnosuke Nakamura as a brooding and ambivalent swordsman who finds himself responsible for the wife and son of the man he has just killed. Filled with Kato's distinctive mixture of comedy, swordplay and rueful melancholy, the film also stars Kiyoshi Atsumi (star of the TORA-SAN movies) in a wonderful performance as Nakamura's bumbling Falstaff-like sidekick. Weekend Two: Friday, May 29th and Saturday, May 30th, 1998 The Friday, May 29th program begins at 7:15 PM with a screening of CRUEL STORY OF THE SHOGUNATE'S DOWNFALL (BAKUMATSU ZANKOKU MONOGATARI) (1964, Toei, 99 min.) Shot with haunting, blood-spattered cinematography by Juhei Suzuki, this film is like a samurai version of Kubrick's FULL METAL JACKET that chronicles the brutal indoctrination of a young peasant (Hashizo Okawa) into the ranks of the Shinsengumi, a notorious band of political assassins in 1860's Japan. Watch for Kato favorite Junko Fuji as a sad eyed local girl. Following at 9:30 PM is a screening of one of Kato's most controversial films, SASUKE AND HIS COMEDIANS (SANADA FUUNROKU) (1963, Toei, 100 min.) Based on a play by Yoshiyuki Fukuda that transposed the early 1960's student rebellion in Japan to the 19th century, the film focuses on a group of juvenile delinquents who hook up with a psychic swordsman (Kinnosuke Nakamura) to take on the all-powerful Tokugawa Shogunate. Taking three months to shoot and failing to generate a large audience, the film nearly lost Kato his job at Toei! The Saturday, May 30th program begins at 7:15 PM with a screening of HISTORY OF A MAN'S FACE (OTOKO NO KAO WA RIREKISHO) (1966, Shochiku, 89 min.), Kato's dynamic portrait of yakuza mobs scrambling for power after the war. The film, starring real-life yakuza (he even served time in prison) Noboru Ando, is something like a Japanese gangster flick directed by Nic Roeg filled with sudden time shifts, Japanese pop songs, American jazz, and brutal thugs in killer white jackets. Tai Kato's first contemporary drama, the film's title comes from a critic's apt description of Ando's fight scarred face! Following at 9:30 PM is a screening of LONG SOUGHT MOTHER (MABUTA NO HAHA) (1962, Toei, 83 min.). Based on Shin Hasegawa's often-filmed drama, the film is a dark and melancholy journey through the back roads of Japan with Kinnosuke Nakamura as a restless gambler looking for the mother who abandoned him as a child. Page 4  Tai Kato Weekend Three: Friday, June 5th and Saturday, June 6th, 1998 The Friday, June 5th program begins at 7:15 PM, with a screening of RED PEONY GAMBLER - ORYU'S VISIT (HIBOTAN BAKUTO - ORYU SANJO) (1970, Toei, 100 min.). Sixth in the eight-film series, the film is a sequel to FLOWER CARDS MATCH finding the lovely card player Junko Fuji searching for the blind girl she rescued in the earlier film and again getting drawn into the middle of a fierce battle. This time, the adversaries are a struggling theater company and the local yakuza mob. Tough guy Bunta Sugawara (BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR & HUMANITY) guest stars as a sympathetic mobster and Tomisaburo Wakayama (star of the LONE WOLF & CHILD series) has an absolutely deranged cameo as Fuji's judo-flipping country cousin. Following at 9:30 PM is a screening of I, THE EXECUTIONER (MINAGOROSHI NO REIKA) (1968, Shochiku, 90 min.), Kato's semi-legendary exploitation film that is not for the weak hearted! Crossing into truly psychotic territory, the film stars Makoto Sato as a revenge driven killer who tracks down and murders the five women who sexually molested his mentally unstable best friend and drove him to suicide. The Saturday, June 6th program begins at 7:15 PM with a screening of GHOST OF OIWA (KAIDAN OIWA NO BOREI) (1961, Toei, 94 min.), a classic kaidan tragedy (it was filmed numerous times as YOTSUYA GHOST STORY). The film stars Tomisaburo Wakayama (LONE WOLF & CHILD) as a poverty stricken samurai who gets trapped in tangled web of madness and murder when his wife deserts him. Following at 9:30 PM is the final film in our tribute to Tai Kato, SAMURAI VAGABOND (KAZE NO BUSHI) (1964, Toei, 95 min.). One of Kato's biggest hits, this taut action-packed ninja film based on Ryotaro Shiba's popular magazine serial, stars Hashizo Okawa as Shinzo a carefree samurai who winds up hacking his way through countless battles as he searches for a priceless map and the kidnapped daughter of a famed swordmaster. A complete calendar/flyer listing of these films has been mailed to you. TICKETS: Members may purchase tickets over the phone by calling 213.466.3456, ext. 3. Non-members may purchase tickets at the door the night of the event or in advance any time that the Cinematheque box office is open. The box office opens one hour prior to the first screening of the evening on Friday and Saturday nights and on Thursdays when the Alternative Screen has events and closes 30 minutes after the last show of the evening begins. Tickets are $7 General Admission and $4 for members. Ticket prices may vary for certain performances. Please list (213) 466-FILM (3456) ext. 2 for program information and ext. 3 for ticket information! S BLACK & WHITE PHOTOS AND PRESS KITS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST S Page 5  Tai Kato PRESS PASSES ARE USUALLY NOT AVAILABLE DURING THE FESTIVAL, AS MOST SCREENINGS WILL SELL OUT. IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT YOU TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE ADVANCE PRESS SCREENINGS. ADVANCE THEATRICAL PRESS SCREENINGS OF SELECTED TITLES ARE PLANNED. FOR DATES & TIMES PLEASE CONTACT MARGOT AT 213.466.3456, ext. 115. THE TITLES LISTED BELOW ARE AVAILABLE FOR PRESS PREVIEW ON VIDEO TAPE at the offices of the American Cinematheque: S BLOOD OF REVENGE S LONG SOUGHT MOTHER S FIGHTIN' TATSU THE RICKSHAW MAN The above titles are subtitled in English. Established in 1984, the American Cinematheque, is a non-profit, viewer-supported film exhibition and cultural organization dedicated to the celebration of the Moving Picture in all its forms. The Cinematheque presents weekly film and video programming which ranges from the classics and world cinemas to the outer frontiers of the art form at the Raleigh Studios Charlie Chaplin Theater and other Los Angeles venues. Exhibition of rare works, special prints within our series, etc., combined with fascinating post-screening discussions with the filmmakers who created the work, are a Cinematheque tradition that keep audiences coming back for once-in-a-lifetime cinema experiences. The American Cinematheque is currently renovating the historic Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, which, when open in December 1998, will become the American Cinematheque's permanent home and offer daily, year-round programming. For information about this film program call 213/466-FILM. THE PROGRAM IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE. # # #