Kon Ichikawa – Hakai AKA The Broken Commandment (1962)


Keiko I. McDonald:
Kon Ichikawa’s Hakai (The Broken Commandment) began in 1961 as a televised dramatisation of Toson Shimazaki’s novel of the same title first published in 1906. Toson’s pioneering work of social realism created a sensationon television, so the director collaborated again with his wife and scenarist, Natto Wada on the film the following year. It, too, was a great success. The prestigious film journal Kinema Junpo ranked it as the fifth best film of 1962.
Set in 1903, during the late Meiji period, both novel and film depict a young teacher’s coming to terms with himself and society’s lingering feudal prejudice against his class of burakumin, then Japan’s minority group. But novel and film take strikingly different approaches to a topic still sensitive in the Japan of the 1960s. Continue reading

Mitsuo Yanagimachi – Saraba itoshiki daichi AKA Farewell to the Land (1982)


Even though this film has (ofifcially) no involvement by Kenji Nakagami, it still feels totally like one of his stories. People familiar with his writings set in Wakayama will cerntainly recognize a couple of similarities.

Eiga Geijutsu’s #2 for 1982.

Jinpachi Nezu really delivers an outstanding performance that got him the Kinema Junpo Award for “Best Actor”.
Beautiful cinematography by genius Masaki Tamura. Continue reading

Yimou Zhang – Qian li zou dan qi AKA Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (2005)


A young Japanese film maker is in hospital in Tokyo. His estranged father tries to visit, but the son refuses to see him. So, as a gesture of reconciliation, the father decides to go to China to complete the filming of a Chinese opera, called “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles,” which the son was working on but unable to finish. Continue reading

Yasuo Furuhata – Eki Station aka Station (1981)


A very beautiful film. This is a Ken Takakura vehicle, and as such follows his formula. Takakura plays to type as the laconic brooder who suffers multiple tragedies with manly stoicism. While the variety of his film varied greatly, his films with director Yasuo Furuhata were always of the highest quality, and this is no exception. Takakura is a cop training to be a sharpshooter for the Olympic games, he divorces his wife and abandons his daughter when he discovers she’s had an affair. Later his coach is gunned down by a fleeing criminal. Years later Takakura returns to his snowy hometown and starts an affair with a middle-aged bar owner. The story is a bit thick, with a number of subplots, yet it is extrordinarily melancholic, as Takakura seems to regret everything he’s done in his life and is made over and over again to relive his mistakes. There is very little “action” as such, and no yakuzas of any kind; but beyond that this is one of the most lushly beautiful and emotional films you can see (if you can see it), with an excellent score by Ryudo Uzaki. Continue reading

Yuuji Makiguchi – Tokugawa onna keibatsu-emaki: Ushi-zaki no kei aka Shogun’s Sadism aka Joy of Torture 2: Oxen Split Torture (1976)

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a review
by Ian Jane

I don’t know what it is with Japanese cinema and it’s affinity for violence and cruelty, but man, when they pull out all the stops they sure do a damn good job of grossing me out. This movie, Shogun’s Sadism (Ushiaki No Kei), is one of those times.

Essentially what we have are two stories, totally unrelated to each other, that exist for the soul reason of piecing together assorted scenes of torture. You see, back in the sixties there was a very popular series of films entitled The Joy Of Torture (Tokugawa Onna Keibatsu-Shi) directed by Teruo Ishii. This series ran for a total of eight volumes and proved to be quite successful. Toei Studios cashed in with this film, directed by Yuji Makiguchi (which some people believe was a pseudonym for Tereo Ishii) and gave it a similar title – the film is also known as Oxen Split Torturing. Continue reading

Kinji Fukasaku – Kuro bara no yakata AKA Black Rose Mansion (1969)



A feverishly perverse 1969 film noir oddity starring female impersonator Akihiro Maruyama. When wealthy Kyohei hires singer “Black Rose” to perform in his exclusive men’s club, he gets more than he bargains for when she attracts scores of homicidal past lovers. The film takes a bizarre twist when Kyohei’s son falls victim to the femme fatale’s unique charm. Continue reading

Edward Yang – Du li shi dai AKA A Confucian Confusion (1994)


Nominated for the Golden Palm in Cannes 1994.

I’ve just seen a marvelous film. Edward Yang’s little-seen and under-distributed A Confucian Confusion is that screwball comedy I long to see that for once is smart, engaging and jabs you where it hurts and tickles most.

As suggested by the title, it deals with the trials and tribulations of a motley of urbanites living in modern Taipei and their escalating moral decadence (or not?). Among them is the young and lovely Chen Shiang-Chyi.

The dialogue is just so fun to listen to. The scenes are so expertly staged. The humor so spot-on.

Over-the-top funny yet never losing its grip on pressing contemporary issues. Confusion is indeed an artful blend of artistry and entertainment. For an Edward yang film, this is in fact a rare sight. Continue reading