Midcentury Madness ’22

First show: June 18


PART 6-7 of 18 • Saturday & Sunday: four remarkable mid-century films—two from Japan, two from France—each with films being screened in America for the first time!

Not content to simply keep breaking ground with his FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT series, Midcentury Productions’ head honcho Don Malcolm will present 36 ultra-rare mid-century films (what else?) from around the world in 18 double features—an ongoing event unlike anything else.



The focus in these films is on the lives and travails of women in early 60s Japan—an area of investigation pioneered by classic Japanese directors like Mizoguchi and Ozu, but taken into startling new realms by directors Kon Ichikawa in TEN DARK WOMEN and Yoshitaro Nomura in ZERO FOCUS.

Ten Dark Women

In TEN DARK WOMEN / KUROI JÛNIN NO ONNA (1960) a man who is irresistible to too many women becomes the target of a most unusual murder conspiracy…it all being planned and executed by his mistresses, with the approval of his wife! Set in the backdrop of Japan’s post-WWII economic miracle and the rise of corporate media, TEN DARK WOMEN (whose script was written by director Ichikawa’s wife, Natto Wada) is a bracing, bizarre and totally unique look at the all-too-possible extremes of gender relations.

Zero Focus

ZERO FOCUS / ZERO NO SHÔTEN (1961) begins more conventionally as a missing-person drama: a wife (Yoshiko Kuga) attempts to solve the mysterious disappearance of her husband. What she finds out as events unfold, however, take the story into startling and macabre directions. Cinematographer Takashi Kawamata and composer Yasushi Akutagawa enhance the story’s ever-tightening sense of forboding as we discover the twisted secrets from the past that cannot be kept locked away, and that we come to understand in real time. Kuga is joined by actresses Hizuro Takachiro and Ineko Arima for a wrenching conclusion that resolves the mystery but somehow leaves us hanging in mid-air at the same time. AMERICAN PREMIERE!

“Midcentury Madness international noir series returns this weekend with a double-barreled blast of rarely screened feminist fury from 1961 Japan…. Both of these 1961 gems ultimately are about the impossibility of escaping one’s past, and that’s as noir as it gets.”
 — G. Allen Johnson, SF Chronicle



Young French pretty-boy actor Jean-Pierre Mocky (1929-2019) turned out to be something altogether different as his tumultuous life unfolded. First making his mark in the French episode of Antonioni’s I VINTI in 1953, Mocky longed to move behind the camera, and he began what proved to be a lengthy and highly controversial career.

The Chasers

THE CHASERS / LES DRAGUEURS (1959) is a film that pushes hard against both the cinéma de papa and the nouvelle vague, colliding cynicism and romantic ardor into a kaleidoscopic dark comedy featuring two mismatched “women chasers” (Jacques Charrier and Charles Aznavour) as they look for very different conceptions of love. With a bevy of beauties familiar to those who’ve attended FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT festivals: Dany Robin, Anouk Aimee, Estella Blain, and Dany Carrel. It’s the mercurial Mocky at his most accessible—don’t miss it!

The Big Scare

We follow up with one of the most unusual, frenetic, surreal crime comedies ever devised: THE BIG SCARE / LA GRANDE FROUSSE (1964). A dangerous, violent counterfeiter escapes being guillotined and disappears into the French countryside, pursued by a not-too-swift police investigator (played by the celebrated comedian Bourvil). He traces the criminal to a charming, picturesque medieval town in the south of France, but soon discovers a populace living in mortal fear—not of the escaped criminal, but of a legendary medieval monster! Mocky collides comedy, thriller and horror/fantasy with the inestimable help of legendary cinematographer Eugen Shufftan in a film whose tone many feel presages the effects achieved in David Lynch’s TWIN PEAKS. More vintage MADNESS from Midcentury Productions! AMERICAN PREMIERE!

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Midcentury Madness '22: Upcoming Showtimes