Diary of a Shinjuku Thief


Directed by: Nagisa Ōshima

Year: 1969

Length: 96 minutes

Classification rating: Unclassified 15+ (under 15s must be accompanied by an adult)

Screens in: Brisbane and Sydney


“Without sexual freedom, humans will never be free...”

Diary of a Shinjuku Thief is a chaotic film that responds to the sexual revolution, radical student movements and social upheaval in Japan during the late 1960s. The ambiguous narrative centres on a man who calls himself Birdie (played by artist Tadanori Yokoo) who steals from a Kinokuniya bookstore in Shinjuku. Sparks fly when a woman named Umeko (Rie Yokoyama), seemingly an employee, catches Birdie in the act and forces him to face the consequences.

What follows is a deep dive into repressed desires, female sexual rebellion, and petty theft as the young lovers attempt to free themselves from the trappings of previous generations and paternal social constructs. Leaping between episodic moments that break down traditions of fiction and reality, the two finally reach ecstasy amidst the intersection of a youth revolt and an experimental theatre troupe.

One of cinema’s great provocateurs, Nagisa Ōshima employs a unique cinematic vocabulary, shifting abruptly from black and white to colour, and meshing naturalistic acting, theatrical intermezzos and cinéma vérité techniques.

Audience warning: Contains nudity, sexual violence and references

QAGOMA, Brisbane


Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

Director: Nagisa Ōshima

Cast: Tadanori Yokoo and Rie Yokoyama

Cinematographer: Sēzō Sengen and Yasuhiro Yoshioka

Genre: Classics

Language(s): In Japanese with English subtitles

Format: 35mm b&w & colour

This film is part of the JFF Classics 2020 program, Provocation and Disruption: Radical Japanese Filmmaking from the 1960s to the 2000s.

From subversive Japanese New Wave cinema to surrealist psychedelic expressions and gritty cyberpunk, Provocation and Disruption features boundary-shattering masterpieces from avant-garde Japanese auteurs including Seijun Suzuki, Shinya Tsukamoto and Nobuhiko Ōbayashi. The program is all about the poetic, the abstract, the visceral and the abrasive in visionary Japanese cinema. This program broadly encapsulates films that were fiercely uncompromising and transcended convention, each leaving its unique mark on Japan’s film industry.