Kon Ichikawa – Shokei no heya AKA Punishment Room (1956)

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Kon Ichikawa’s study of gang-related violence among the youth, ‘Punishment Room’, is a brutal and nihilistic work utterly barren of hope! Yes, just the way I like a movie to be. ‘Punishment Room’ is far from the same league as Ichikawa’s masterpiece ‘Nobi’, but it is a film I better would be able to say I enjoyed watching. Though it is not much less powerful and at the release in the 50’s it were met with angry protests from parent-groups, the Japanese government and even Shintarô Ishihara, the writer of the novel ‘Punishment Room’ is based on! Plot is centered on a disgruntled university student whose disrespect and ruthlessness against authorities finally lead to his doom. He humiliate his sick, but hard-working, father at the bank in order to get a loan to fiancé a huge party. The party scene features a cool jazz band and the camera often zoom in on the girls legs. While the party goes on our hero leaves in order to beat up some members of a street gang in a pool hall. Later he drug two girls together with a pal and they bring them to an apartment and rape them! Continue reading

Isamu Hirabayashi – Soliton (2014)

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A man walks, step by step, through the grass, first in black-and-white, later in pale colour. We see nothing of his face, just his boots and legs, clad in camouflage trousers and filmed from above. In the background we can hear machine guns rattling, a squawking walkie-talkie, the drone of an airplane attacking, a long beep and a chord played on the piano. The boots continue to stomp over grass, sand, rock, rusty metal and loose planks. Sometimes they come to a halt before walking on through clear, shallow water. More planks, metal, broken household items, rubble, a blanket, a bicycle, an air duct and a doll. Suddenly, the man’s boots are standing in front of the naked feet of a girl holding a cuddly toy in her hand. An atmospheric, experimental piece, from a country ravaged by catastrophes. Continue reading

Hiroshi Teshigahara – Tanin no kao AKA The Face of Another (1966)

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Acquarello @ Strictly Film School wrote:
An off-camera psychiatrist (Mikijiro Hira) overseeing a processed batch of prosthetic appendages describes his fragile role of diplomatically treating – not a patient’s physical imperfection – but rather, the psychological insecurity that underlies his seemingly superficial malady. The curious, fragmented shot of randomly floating, artificial body parts is subsequently reflected in an X-ray profile of a smug and embittered burn victim named Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai) as he recounts to the quietly receptive psychiatrist his own culpability in the fateful industrial accident that had permanently disfigured him and now estranges him from his co-workers and family. The clinically disembodied images are then commuted into the equally cold and sterile Okuyama household through a dissociating, close-up shot of a human eye that zooms out to reveal his beautiful and mannered wife (Machiko Kyô) busily occupied in her hobby of polishing gemstones as the acerbic and insecure Okuyama attempts to test her affection and fidelity with vague and allusive casual remarks and open-ended questions. Spurned by his wife after a spontaneous and awkward attempt at intimacy, Okuyama returns to his psychiatrist and agrees to participate in the testing of the doctor’s latest experiment: a prosthetic mask molded from the facial characteristics of a surrogate donor. Now liberated by a sense of faceless anonymity and relieved of personal and professional entanglements, Okuyama takes up residence at a modest boarding house and begins to test the limits of his traceless identity. Continue reading

Kinji Fukasaku – Gunki hatameku motoni AKA Under the Flag of the Rising Sun (1972)

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User comment from IMDB: Author: ben morris (shiryuo) from Munich, Germany:

First of all I have to say that this film is really tough.

It’s a bit like Rashômon. A widow wants to find out the truth about her husband being apparent executed in the Second World War by Japanese soldiers.

But the administration isn’t ready to hand out the documents about his dead. So the woman (Hidari Sachiko) tries alone to find out what really happened, by questioning four survivors who knew her husband. And everybody tells a different story (that’s why I compare it with Rashômon, although they are set in different sceneries) and they have different opinions about the dead husband. The end turns out to be more horrible than any of you hard-boiled-audition-viewers might expect. Sorry, just kidding. Kinji Fukasaku does its best to disturb the audience. Compared with Battle Royale, Gunki hatameku motoni is much more real and in its way not entertaining at all, what Battle Royale certainly was. Continue reading

Shuji Terayama – Den-en ni shisu aka Pastoral : To Die in the Country aka Pastoral Hide-and-Seek (1974)

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Quote:
Terayama’s second feature recapitulates some of the main themes of Throw Away Your Books in more directly personal terms: it’s a film about a film-maker’s re-examination (and attempted revision) of his own childhood. His boyhood self is an unprepossessing lad who lives with his monstrous, widowed mother, fantasises about the desirable girl-next-door, and finds the visiting circus a touchstone for his dreams of escape. With passion, wit and a genuinely engaging charm, Terayama poses the burning question: Does murdering your mother constitute a true liberation? The autobiographical stance and the circus motif have evoked countless comparisons with Fellini, but they’re very wide of the mark: the film isn’t burdened with bombast or rhetoric, but it is rich in (authentically Japanese) poetry, and its modernist approach is challenging in the best and most accessible sense. Continue reading

Hitoshi Yazaki – Sangatsu no raion aka March Comes in Like a Lion (1991)

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TimeOut London:
March Comes in Like a Lion
Review

Or, perhaps, love among the ruins. In present-day Tokyo, a waste land of tenements prey to decrepitude and demolition, ‘Ice’ (Yura) decides to collect Haruo (Cho), the young man she’s set her heart on, from the hospital where he’s being treated for amnesia. A little lie is needed to entice him back to the apartment she’s found for them: she tells him she’s his lover, neglecting to add that she’s also his sister. With no recollections to suggest otherwise, he goes along with her – but how long before his memory returns? With its long, static, carefully composed takes, taciturn script and tantalisingly ambivalent tone, Yazaki’s beautifully matter-of-fact study of incestuous longing is an engrossing, sexy and remarkably tender movie. Crucially, it eschews both easy judgments and fake sentimentality; indeed, there’s a droll, deadpan humour at work, most noticeably in the frequent sight gags. At the same time, however, the evocative use of metaphors ensures that the general air of detachment makes not for a dry, academic exercise, but a poetic tale of a fragile, blossoming romance that’s finally both subtly subversive and, thanks to the charismatic central performances, deeply affecting. Continue reading

Noriaki Tsuchimoto – Minamata: Kanja-san to sono sekai AKA Minamata: The Victims and Their World (1971)

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Quote:
In the small town of Minamata in Kyushu, far from the metropolitan center, the fertilizer company Chisso built a factory to take advantage of cheap labor and commenced dumping mercury-filled wastewater into the nearby sea. Soon residents began exhibiting symptoms of a mysterious illness, a happening that would eventually develop into the worst case of environmental pollution in postwar Japan. Noriaki Tsuchimoto visits the patients and their families who sued Chisso and listens to their voices. His camera gently lifts the veil that had obscured them and reveals their reality. MINAMATA: THE VICTIMS AND THEIR WORLD is impressive in how it stands on the side of the patients, not only providing a collage of individual portraits, but also an understanding of the their everyday lives.

One of the monuments of Japanese documentary, MINAMATA: THE VICTIMS AND THEIR WORLD played at many international festivals, winning an award at Locarno. Continue reading