1959, Sony Repertory, 90 min, Japan, Dir: Ishiro Honda

With the space race in full swing, Ishirô Honda and SFX artist Eiji Tsuburaya collaborated on this action-packed, alien-invasion extravaganza. Envisioning Japan as an aerospace leader and reflecting its postwar return to world affairs (the country had recently joined the United Nations), the film shows Tokyo leading an international coalition of America, the Soviet Union and other nations against hostile spacemen from the planet Natal. These pint-sized invaders pack a powerful arsenal that includes nimble flying saucers and a giant mothership with an anti-gravity beam that sucks skyscrapers off the ground! Heroic astronaut Katsumiya (Ryo Ikebe) and his crew are ready for battle - on the moon, and in the skies over Tokyo.

1964, Janus Films, 96 min, Japan, Dir: Masahiro Shinoda

Aging yakuza soldier Muraki (Ryô Ikebe) returns from prison to an underworld he barely recognizes. Rival gangs have joined forces and his lethal skills and fealty no longer seem necessary. Adrift as a modern-day ronin, Muraki encounters the beguiling and mysterious Saeko (Mariko Kaga) in a gambling den; her reckless craving for excitement pushes them to dangerous extremes they are unable, or unwilling, to resist. An electrifying masterpiece of existential noir, so sleek and sensual in its imagery, editing and soundtrack it’s almost impossible to believe it was made in 1964. Toru Takemitsu's amazing score artfully combines natural sound and music into a compelling sonic mosaic.

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