In America, Kon Ichikawa has been the least visible of the great Japanese filmmakers, despite a prolific career that continued almost to his death at 92 in 2008. Individual movies have made their mark — his shattering antiwar picture “Fires on the Plain” (1959), an unqualified masterpiece; “The Makioka Sisters” (1983), the story of a family fallen on hard times in 1930s Kyoto and a film of surpassing visual splendor; or “Tokyo Olympiad” (1965), his cool, eccentric, innovative documentary about the 1964 Olympics. But perhaps because of the versatility these titles indicate, he’s never come into focus in the United States the way Kurosawa, Ozu and even Mizoguchi have. There hasn’t been a major Ichikawa retrospective in North America since 2002.
This weekend, the Japan Society in Manhattan is offering a chance to sample a few of his less familiar films with the short series “Kon Ichikawa Restorations,”i the United States premieres of three movies in new 4K ultrahigh-definition restorations, projected in 35 millimeter. It begins on Friday night with “Conflagration” (1958) and continues Saturday with “Her Brother” (1960) and the ravishing, wonderfully strange period thriller “An Actor’s Revenge” (1963).