The work of Kiju Yoshida is one of Japanese cinema’s obscure pleasures. A contemporary of Nagisa Oshima (DEATH BY HANGING, IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES) and Masahiro Shinoda (PALE FLOWER, ASSASSINATION), Yoshida made his directorial debut at age 27. In the decades that followed he produced more than 20 features and documentaries, yet each and every one has proven difficult to see in the English-speaking world -- until now.
EROS + MASSACRE tells the parallel stories of early 20th-century anarchist (and free love advocate) Sakae Osugi and a pair of student activists. Their stories interact and intertwine, resulting in a complex, rewarding work.
“A monumental work, a deeply challenging and sprawling work that unfurls with gusto. Things start to get interesting as the time periods appear to converge, with characters from the ‘10s/’20s strand fleetingly transposed to late-’60s Tokyo, as if them being discussed by the students had the ability to literally bring past into present. Something that can be enjoyed by all, however, is the film’s ravishing and often indulgent style, with Yoshida making full use of his scoped monochrome framing by regularly trapping his actors in the corners and edges of shots, slicing up their bodies or eye lines in interesting ways, or isolating them within doorways or window openings.
EROS + MASSACRE requires a certain degree of awareness of the socio-political concerns of the time for full comprehension, but the rewards are massive for those willing to put in the work; not to mention that it’s exquisitely presented and, in spite of its difficulties, perhaps still stands as Japan’s quintessential arthouse film. Yoshida would continue his intersecting of the themes of political and romantic radicalism in his loosely related follow-up works HEROIC PURGATORY and COUP D’ETAT.” (Mark Player, Electric Sheep)