Kon Ichikawa

Kon Ichikawa – Kagi AKA The Key AKA Odd Obsession (1959) (HD)

Winner of Cannes’ Special Jury Prize, Odd Obsession is one of acclaimed director Kon Ichikawa’s (Tokyo Olympiad, The Burmese Harp) greatest works. This captivating blend of comic satire and drama follows an elderly man’s attempts to satisfy his younger wife (Machiko Kyo, Rashomon, Gate of Hell). When “potency” injections fail, Mr. Kenmochi incites his own jealousy by orchestrating an affair between his wife and his doctor, who happens to be his daughter’s fiance. The wife and doctor are eager to oblige Kenmochi, his daughter is furious, and the scheme proves both a success and a deadly disaster. With dazzling imagery, rich irony, and superb acting, Odd Obsession illuminates the ongoing battle between personal desire and societal convention. Read More »

Kon Ichikawa – Sasame-yuki AKA The Makioka Sisters (1983)

This lyrical adaptation of the beloved novel by Junichiro Tanizaki was a late-career triumph for director Kon Ichikawa. Structured around the changing of the seasons, The Makioka Sisters (Sasame-yuki) follows the lives of four siblings who have taken on their family’s kimono manufacturing business, in the years leading up to the Pacific War. The two oldest have been married for some time, but according to tradition, the rebellious youngest sister cannot wed until the third, conservative and terribly shy, finds a husband. This graceful study of a family at a turning point in history is a poignant evocation of changing times and fading customs, shot in rich, vivid colors. (~Criterion) Read More »

Kon Ichikawa – Nobi AKA Fires on the Plain (1959) (HD)

In the closing days of WWII remnants of the Japanese army in Leyte are abandoned by their command and face certain starvation. Read More »

Kon Ichikawa – Okuman choja aka A Billionaire (1954)

A full description of the film can be found in James Quandt’s edited collection of writings on (and by) Ichikawa Kon from the Cinemateque Ontario (in Sato Tadao’s essay “Kon Ichikawa” on pages 109 – 111). A Billionaire was one of a handful of 50s comedies that Ichikawa directed that were extremely successful at the box office. These films were characterized by rapid-fire dialogue and biting social commentary (others like this include Pu-San and Mr Lucky). This is definitely a period of Ichikawa’s career that deserves more focus from the West. Read More »

Kon Ichikawa – Bonchi (1960)


Where Ichikawa skewered patriarchal family values in Her Brother, in this savage satire he hoists the matriarchal system on its own apron strings. Raizo Ichikawa (“in his best role yet”-Variety) is the scion of an Osaka merchant family whose traditional power is matrilineal. Instructed by his overbearing mother and grandmother to give them an heiress for the family business, he stands by helplessly as wife after wife is thrown out of the house for producing sons. Driven to a life of dissipation-his mistresses also fail to produce daughters-in the end he is just too tired to care. Ichikawa’s frighteningly funny picture of the matriarchy’s efforts to perpetuate itself was received as antifeminist, if not downright misogynistic, but Joan Mellon suggests that the target once again is “the institution of the family [which] places its own survival ahead of the needs and feelings of individuals.” If this looks forward to The Makioka Sisters, so does Donald Richie’s comment, “We find this cruel matriarchal story…told in terms of the most transcendental beauty.” Read More »

Kon Ichikawa – Taiheiyo hitori-botchi aka Alone on the Pacific (1963)

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Director Kon Ichikawa’s (An Actor’s Revenge, The Burmese Harp, Tokyo Olympiad) incredible real-life tale of one man’s epic journey across the Pacific Ocean is based on Kenichi Horie’s best-selling book of the same name. A year previously, at only 23 years old, Horie took his basic sailboat (named ‘The Mermaid’) and set off from Nishinomiya in Japan, arriving in San Francisco, California 94 days later. Man’s battle against nature is amongst the timeless themes of Ichikawa’s beautifully shot, inspiring film. Read More »

Kon Ichikawa – Nobi AKA Fires on the Plain (1959)


Fires on the Plain opens to a harsh and unexpectedly cruel act, as Tamura (Eiji Funakoshi) is struck in the face by his commanding officer for returning to his under-provisioned and demoralized regiment. Suffering from tuberculosis, Tamura had been sent to a field hospital in Leyte in order to avoid taxing their limited supplies. Tamura is sent away again – this time, with a handful of tubers and a hand grenade. If the hospital still refuses to admit him, the officer explains that it is his duty to serve the Imperial Army by committing suicide. As Tamura makes his way towards the field hospital, he is unnerved by the appearance of smoke emanating from isolated, contained fires along the Filipino countryside, and changes his route in order to avoid them. Read More »