Akio Jissôji created a rich and diverse body of work during his five decades in Japan’s film and television industries. For some, he is best-known for his science-fiction: the 1960s TV series “Ultraman” and 1988’s box-office success “Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis”. For others, it is his 1990s adaptations of horror and mystery novelist Edogawa Rampo, such as Watcher in the Attic and Murder on D Street. And then there are his New Wave films for the Art Theatre Guild, three of which – “This Transient Life“, “Mandara” and “Poem”, forming “The Buddhist Trilogy” – are collected here.

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Winner of the Golden Leopard award at the 1970 Locarno Film Festival, “This Transient Life” is among the Art Theatre Guild’s most successful – and most controversial – productions. The film concerns a brother and sister from a rich family who defy the expectations placed on them: he has little interest in further education or his father’s business, instead obsessing over Buddhist statues; she continually refuses a string of suitors and the prospect of marriage. Their closeness, and isolation, gives way to an incestuous relationship which, in turn, breeds disaster. Mandara, Jissôji’s first colour feature, maintained the controversial subject matter, focusing on a cult who recruit through rape and hope to achieve true ecstasy through sexual release. Shot, as with all of Jissôji’s Art Theatre Guild works, in a radically stylised manner, the film sits somewhere between the pinku genre and the fiercely experimental approach of his Japanese New Wave contemporaries.

The final entry in the trilogy, “Poem”, returns to black and white and is centred on the austere existence of a young houseboy who becomes helplessly embroiled in the schemes of two brothers. Written by Toshirô Ishidô (screenwriter of Nagisa Ôshima’s “The Sun’s Burial” and Shôhei Imamura’s “Black Rain”), who also penned “This Transient Life” and “Mandara”, “Poem” continues the trilogy’s exploration of faith in a post-industrial world.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

High Definition Blu-Ray (1080p) presentations
Original uncompressed LPCM mono 1.0 audio on all three films
Newly translated optional English subtitles
Both the 120-minute Theatrical and 137-minute Extended versions of Poem
Bonus Blu-Ray disc with Jissôji’s 1974 feature It Was A Faint Dream, which continues the themes explored in the Trilogy
Introductions to all three films in the Trilogy by David Desser, author of Eros Plus Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave
Scene-select commentaries on all three films in the Trilogy by Desser
Theatrical trailers for Mandara, Poem and It Was A Faint Dream Limited edition packaging, fully illustrated by maarko phntm
Illustrated 60-page perfect-bound collector’s book featuring new writings on the films by Anton Bitel and Tom Mes

DETAILS:

Director: Akio Jissôji
Cast: Michiko Tsukasa, Ryô Tamura, Kôji Shimizu, Akiko Mori, Shin Kishida, Hiroko Sakurai

RRP: £59.99
Region: B
Rating: 18
Genre: Drama
Duration: 143 / 135 / 137 mins
Language: Japanese
Subtitles: English
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 / 1.85:1 / 2.35:1
Audio: 1.0 Mono
B&W / Colour
Discs: 4

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Ever since I watched Takeshi Kitano's "Hana-Bi" for the first time (and many times after that) I have been a cinephile. While much can be said about the technical aspects of film, coming from a small town in Germany, I cherish the notion of art showing its audience something which one does normally avoid, neglect or is unable to see for many different reasons. Often the stories told in films have helped me understand, discover and connect to something new which is a concept I would like to convey in the way I talk and write about films. Thus, I try to include some info on the background of each film as well as a short analysis (without spoilers, of course), an approach which should reflect the context of a work of art no matter what genre, director or cast. In the end, I hope to pass on my joy of watching film and talking about it.