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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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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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

Hiroshi Teshigahara – Suna no onna AKA Woman in the Dunes (1964)

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Jumpei Niki, a Tokyo based entomologist and educator, is in a poor seaside village collecting specimens of sand insects. As it is late in the day and as he has missed the last bus back to the city, some of the local villagers suggest that he spend the night there, they offering to find him a place to stay. That place is the home of a young woman, whose house is located at the bottom of a sand pit accessible only by ladder. He later learns that the woman’s husband and child died in a sandstorm, their undiscovered bodies buried somewhere near the house. The next morning as he tries to leave, he finds that the ladder is gone – he realizing that the ladder he climbed down was a rope ladder which is anchored above the pit – meaning that he is trapped with the young woman as the walls of the pit are sand with no grip. He also realizes that this entrapment was the villagers and the young woman’s plan for him to stay there permanently to be her helper in the never-ending task of digging out the sand, which if not done will swallow them alive. Continue reading

Masato Ishioka – Scoutman (2000)

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This is an intense, romantic, deeply human, dramatic, realistic and surprising film about the japanese AV industry, and about the feelings of a very young couple.

[Source: Japan times]

“You oughta be in show business, baby!” That’s been a pickup line of “producers” since the days of D.W. Griffith, though in Japan today the pick-up artists are likely to be young men with stylishly coiffed, tea-colored hair, tanned pretty-boy faces and dressed in dark designer mufti. They prowl places like Shibuya, Harajuku and Ikebukuro, hitting on one woman after another with a coaxing, teasing, wheedling urgency.
The men are usually selling, not themselves, but an arubaito in the AV industry, with “AV” standing for “audiovisual,” but meaning porn. Called “scout men,” they are the subject of “Pain,” an excellent new film by Masato Ishioka, a veteran porn director himself, who spent two years researching his subjects. Though weathering serial rejections that would wither the average male ego to the size of a quark, the scout men at first shied away from Ishioka. “They didn’t take me seriously,” he told me after a screening. “It took a long time to win their confidence.” Continue reading

Masahiro Shinoda – Himiko (1974) (HD)

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An imagined life of the prehistoric Japanese Queen Himiko, based loosely on a few mentions in Chinese chronicles. Himiko is presented as the head priestess of the Sun Goddess cult and a spirit medium. This cult later was used by the Japanese Imperial family as their claim to rule. Himiko is made queen when the king is killed, but lets the men around her rule. She is then deposed and killed because she lusts after her half-brother, who is more interested in Adahime, who supports the Earth Goddess. Continue reading