Japan

Kenji Mizoguchi – Sanshô dayû AKA Sansho the Bailiff (1954) (HD)

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Sansho Dayu… is the triumphant summation of Mizoguchi’s style and themes, as well as the most compassionate response imaginable to those atrocities which had been committed in then very recent years, in Japan and all over the world. It is the most humanist of films, but it asserts that humanism is powerless without politics, just as politics is purposeless without humanism. The last sequence is the most perfect ending in cinema, so broad in implication, so exquisite in form. The reunion of mother and son – the revelation of human love – is at once the most important thing in the world, and an event insignificant against the panorama of human suffering. The double perspective – never to see things in isolation, always in context – is assured by Mizoguchi’s style, and defines his art. Sansho Dayu is, in Gilbert Adair’s words, “one of those films for whose sake the cinema exists”.
Alexander Jacoby, Senses Of Cinema.com Read More »

Akira Kurosawa – Akahige (1965)

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In the Nineteenth Century, in Japan, the arrogant and proud just-graduated Dr. Noboru Yasumoto (Yuzo Kayama) is forced to work in the Koshikawa Clinic, a non-profit health facility ruled by Dr. Kyojio Niide (Toshir Mifune), a.k.a. “Red Beard”. “Red Beard” is a good, sentimental, but also very firm, strong and fair man. While in the clinic, Dr. Yasumoto becomes responsible for healing the hurt teenager Otoyo (Terumi Niki), and he learns a lesson of humanity, becoming a better man. Read More »

Kenji Mizoguchi – Genroku Chûshingura aka The 47 Ronin (1941)

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Genroku Chushingura, also known as The Forty-Seven Ronin of the Genroku Era, or in the case of Kenji Mizoguchi’s two-part, 220-minute adaptation, The Loyal Forty-Seven Ronin (1941-42), is one of Japan’s great historical legends. Retold in countless theatrical versions and perhaps several dozen films, Ronin tells the story of a band of masterless samurai (ronin) who exact revenge for the death of their beloved master and then commit hara-kiri. In her book Mr. Smith Goes to Tokyo: Japanese Cinema Under the American Occupation 1945-1952, Kyoko Hirano notes, “It is said that whenever a film studio fell into financial distress, it would produce a film based on this story, for a guaranteed hit.” Read More »

Kana Matsumoto & Kayo Nakamura – Tôkyô Oashisu aka Tokyo Oasis (2011)

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Plot / Synopsis
Set in Tokyo, actress Touko leaves the filming set of her latest project. She then comes across three people by random chance. She gives a ride to a man named Nagano whom she has never met before. At a small theater Kouko runs into Kikuchi – a former screen writer who now works in the small theater. Lastly, Touko meets Yasuko at the zoo. Yasuko is a women studying for her college entrance exam and applying for a job at the zoo. Read More »

Go Shibata – NN-891102 (1999)



This film’s cryptic title refers to the atomic bombing of Nagasaki (Nagasaki Nuclear 8 [August] 9 [the day] 11:02 [the time]). A 5-year-old boy survives the fateful blast and thinks that its sound has been captured on his father’s tape recorder, only to become obsessed with reproducing it when the tape appears to be empty. A first, the sound (or its absence) continues to traumatize him as he tries all manner of experiment to reproduce it, but gradually, as he grows older, it becomes oddly comforting. This emotionally powerful film features stunningly realistic flashback scenes that capture the look and feel of actual footage that could have been shot in 1940. NN-891102 was the first feature film by Go Shibata, who is perhaps better known for his 2004 film Late Bloomer. Read More »

Mikio Naruse – Okasan aka Mother (1952)

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Mikio Naruse presents a compassionate, resigned, and poignant examination of human struggle, perseverance, and sacrifice in Okasan. Juxtaposing the innocence and optimism of youth with the austerity of life in postwar Japan, Naruse reflects the gradual erosion of hope in the face of change and uncertainty: the town festivals that coincide with episodes of illness and death in the family; the Fukuharas’ fond reminiscence of their hectic life as young parents with a newly opened business, as Ryosuke looks forward to the laundry shop reopening despite his debilitating illness; Chako’s picnic at an amusement park that exacerbates Masako’s motion sickness. From the opening shot of Toshiko’s affectionate voice-over against the image of the resourceful Masako, arched forward, cleaning the house, Naruse conveys the understated and bittersweet image of his archetypal, resilient heroine – an unsentimental, yet graceful and reverent portrait of a tenacious, aging woman struggling – and literally yielding – against the interminable burden of poverty, heartache, disillusionment, and unrealized dreams. Read More »

Akio Jissoji – Mujo aka This Transient Life (1970)

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Synopsis
This Transient Life tells the story of the siblings Masao and Yuri who live in a huge estate near Lake Biwa north of Kyoto. Masao refuses to go to university and is infatuated with Buddhist sculptures. Iwashita, a student who lodges at the house, and Ogino, a young priest and former classmate of Masao, are both in love with Masao’s beautiful sister Yuri, who rejects all proposals from her parents to marry her off. One day, while being alone in the big house and playing with No-masks, Masao and Yuri end up in a passionate embrace. Thus starts their forbidden relation that soon bears fruit. When Yuri gets pregnant the siblings plot a perfidious plan. Yuri seduces Iwashita only to be discovered by her parents, who then force Iwashita to marry her. Masao leaves for Kyoto to become an apprentice to the famous sculptor of Buddhist statues, Mori Takayasu. He starts a relation with the much younger wife of the impotent sculptor, who secretly enjoys watching them make love. A year later Masao briefly returns to his parents’ house. Read More »