Shirô Toyoda – Jigokuhen AKA Portrait of Hell (1969)

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Synopsis:
A rebellious Korean artist tests the limits of his sadistic patron, an omnipotent feudal Japanese lord. Yoshihide demands a commission to paint screens of the Hell which he sees the egotistical lord’s peasants suffer. Such a public display will challenge the uncaring upper class’ obsession with their own personal beauty. With Chinese and Buddhist influences at a peak in 11th century Japan, the daimyo Horikawa wanted a mural of Buddhist paradise. As Yoshihide’s ghastly artworks appear to come to life, the painter and his patron’s mutual racism also take their toll. Continue reading

Shirô Toyoda – Neko to shozo to futari no onna AKA Shozo, a Cat and Two Women (1956)

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A wry psychological comedy about a man who prefers his cat to his two wives. Some of the most famous Japanese players are the leads: the first wife is the legendary Isuzu Yamada (she was in over 300 movies between 1929 and 1956, had been married six times, and was still playing romantic roles); Kyôko Kagawa, usually a demure heroine, plays the unsympathetic second wife; Hisaya Morishige is the indolent cat-loving husband; the character actress Chieko Naniwa plays the mother. The story (by Junichirô Tanizaki) is set among shopkeepers at a small seaside town near Osaka, in the Kansai district. —Pauline Kael Continue reading