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Celluloid Sunday:
Circus Boys on 35mm
Institute of Contemporary Arts
Two young boys in the circus, wearing sailor outfits, holding up flags. One is riding an elephant.
Circus Boys (二十世紀少年読本), dir. Kaizo Hayashi, Japan 1989, 106 min., Japanese with English subtitles, PG

Kaizo Hayashi's second feature Circus Boys plays as something of a companion piece to his first work To Sleep So as to Dream (1986), which featured recently as part of Celluloid Sunday.

Resorting to a similar black and white expressionist dreamland as his debut, Circus Boys follows two brothers (Jinta and Wataru) who grow up as orphans in a traveling circus. The glittering monochrome contrasts the path of Jinta and Wataru: one stays with the circus and tries to renew it, while the other leaves to become a roaming conman and quack doctor. Between one man’s idealism and the other’s cynicism, Hayashi traverses a magical terrain of the mind and reaches a conclusion not far off the sublime.

Following this film, Kaizo Hayashi’s directorial efforts moved into the realm of postmodern crime thrillers and fantasy (and would later direct video games such as Konami’s 7 Blades), which sadly overshadowed his first attempts as a director. Circus Boys and To Sleep So as to Dream remain as striking, unremembered objects filled with poetry and magical realism, very much echoing recurrent themes in late 1980s/early 1990s Japanese cinema.

Both films were distributed by ICA Projects. We are delighted to present Circus Boys from the original 35mm print screened at the time of its release in 1994, and kept in the ICA Archive ever since.
06:30 pm
Sun, 13 Aug 2023
Cinema 1

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