Masaki Kobayashi

Masaki Kobayashi – Musuko no seishun AKA Youth of the Son (1952)

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The story of a father and two teenaged sons, and the rivalry between the two siblings as they begin to discover the attraction of girls.

YOUTH OF THE SON (1952, aka MUSUKO NO SEISHUN) marked Masaki Kobayashi’s official directorial debut, telling the story of a father and two teenaged sons, and the rivalry between the two siblings as they begin to discover the attraction of girls. Although Kobayashi is credited as director, the movie was heavily influenced (and larger supervised) by Kobayashi’s longtime mentor Keisuke Kinoshita (1912-1998) and as such, it is more dominated by a sentimental tone common to Kinoshita’s films than displays of Kobayashi’s later, familiar lyrical visual style.
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Masaki Kobayashi – Kaidan AKA Kwaidan [uncut] [+commentary] (1964)

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For a film so widely and indelibly remembered, Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan has confounded a surprising number of critics over the years. Ever since its release in 1965, there have been those who have found it too long, too artificial, too self-consciously exotic, not socially minded enough for the director of The Human Condition (1959–61) and Harakiri (1962), not scary or gory enough to qualify as a horror film. To be sure, this four-part adaptation of four renowned ghost stories by Lafcadio Hearn—not quite comparable to any other film, regardless of genre or country of origin, and unique in Kobayashi’s oeuvre—defies easy categorization. That is perhaps why it has remained for countless viewers such a singular experience, clinging to memory like an unshakable dream, a glimpse into some alternate zone where light falls differently on faces, time moves by a different measure, and terror blends disturbingly with beauty. Read More »

Masaki Kobayashi – Seppuku aka Harakiri (1962)

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An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord’s home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn. Read More »

Masaki Kobayashi – Kono hiroi sora no dokoka ni aka Somewhere Beneath The Wide Sky (1954)

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SOMEWHERE BENEATH THE WIDE SKY (1954, aka KONO HIROI SORA NO DOKOKA NI) came near the end of Masaki Kobayashi’s formative period as a director — scripted by the sister of his mentor Keisuke Kinoshita (and scored by Kinoshita‘s brother), this drama of middle-class life in postwar Japan tells the story lower-middle-class workers in the city of Kawasaki, and their troubles and travails. Read More »

Masaki Kobayashi – Ningen no jôken AKA The Human Condition III: A Soldier’s Prayer (1961)

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Criterion Collection wrote:
Masaki Kobayashi’s mammoth humanist drama is one of the most staggering achievements of Japanese cinema. Originally filmed and released in three parts, the nine-and-a-half-hour The Human Condition (Ningen no joken), adapted from Junpei Gomikawa’s six-volume novel, tells of the journey of the well-intentioned yet naive Kaji (handsome Japanese superstar Tatsuya Nakadai) from labor camp supervisor to Imperial Army soldier to Soviet POW. Constantly trying to rise above a corrupt system, Kaji time and again finds his morals an impediment rather than an advantage. A raw indictment of its nation’s wartime mentality as well as a personal existential tragedy, Kobayashi’s riveting, gorgeously filmed epic is novelistic cinema at its best. Read More »

Masaki Kobayashi – Ningen no jôken AKA The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity (1959)

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Criterion Collection wrote:
Masaki Kobayashi’s mammoth humanist drama is one of the most staggering achievements of Japanese cinema. Originally filmed and released in three parts, the nine-and-a-half-hour The Human Condition (Ningen no joken), adapted from Junpei Gomikawa’s six-volume novel, tells of the journey of the well-intentioned yet naive Kaji (handsome Japanese superstar Tatsuya Nakadai) from labor camp supervisor to Imperial Army soldier to Soviet POW. Constantly trying to rise above a corrupt system, Kaji time and again finds his morals an impediment rather than an advantage. A raw indictment of its nation’s wartime mentality as well as a personal existential tragedy, Kobayashi’s riveting, gorgeously filmed epic is novelistic cinema at its best. Read More »

Masaki Kobayashi – Ningen no joken I aka The Human Condition I (1959)

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Criterion Collection wrote:
Masaki Kobayashi’s mammoth humanist drama is one of the most staggering achievements of Japanese cinema. Originally filmed and released in three parts, the nine-and-a-half-hour The Human Condition (Ningen no joken), adapted from Junpei Gomikawa’s six-volume novel, tells of the journey of the well-intentioned yet naive Kaji (handsome Japanese superstar Tatsuya Nakadai) from labor camp supervisor to Imperial Army soldier to Soviet POW. Constantly trying to rise above a corrupt system, Kaji time and again finds his morals an impediment rather than an advantage. A raw indictment of its nation’s wartime mentality as well as a personal existential tragedy, Kobayashi’s riveting, gorgeously filmed epic is novelistic cinema at its best. Read More »