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Autumn Paradise in New York (for Japanese Film Fans)

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    dylanexpert

    The New York Film Festival this fall is holding a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Nikkatsu (Japan’s oldest surviving studio). The lineup includes works ranging in date from 1921 to 2010. Included are several classic films that surely influenced AK, including several by Mansaku Itami, Daisuke Ito, Sadao Yamanaka (whose Humanity and Paper Balloons was featured in our Film Club) and Kenji Mizoguchi.

    Also included is perhaps the “holy grail” of prewar films: Tomu Uchida’s Earth (from 1939), a left-leaning film about peasant struggles made just before the prewar government took total control of the film industry.

    Unfortunately, the Lincoln Center site has no info as of yet on dates and times for screenings. Here’s the link:

    http://www.filmlinc.com/nyff2011/blog/49th-nyff-masterworks-series-will-honor-nikkatsu-corporation

    Nikkatsu’s 100th Anniversary

    Nikkatsu 100th Anniversary Retrospective Lineup:

    AKANISHI KAKITA (1936) 77min

    Director: Mansaku Itami

    THE BURMESE HARP (Biruma no Tategoto) (1956) 115min

    Director: Kon Ichikawa

    CHARISMA (Karisuma) (1999) 103min

    Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

    COLD FISH (Tsumetai Nettaigyo) (2010) 144min

    Director: Sion Sono

    A COLT IS MY PASSPORT (Colt ha Oreno Passport) (1967) 85min

    Director: Takashi Nomura

    CRAZED FRUIT (Kurutta Kajitsu) (1956) 86min

    Director: Ko Nakahira

    DANCER IN IZU (Izo no Odoriko) (1963) 87min

    Director: Katsumi Nisikawa

    A DIARY OF CHUJI’S TRAVELS (Chiji Tabi Nikki: Part 1 and Part 2) (1927) 107min

    Director: Daisuke Ito

    EARTH (1939) 92min

    Director: Tomu Uchida

    GATE OF FLESH (Nikutai no Mon) (1964) 90min

    Director: Seijun Suzuki

    THE HELL-FATED COURTESAN (Maruhi: Joro Seme Jigoku) (1973) 77min

    Director: Noboru Tanaka

    HOMETOWN (1930) 86min

    Director: Kenji Mizoguchi

    I LOOK UP WHEN I WALK(aka KEEP YOUR CHIN UP) (Uewo Muite Arukou) (1962) 91min

    Director: Toshio Masuda

    INTENTIONS OF MURDER (Akai Satsui) (1964) 150min

    Director: Shohei Imamura

    INTIMIDATION (Aru Kyohaku) (1960) 65min

    Director: Koreyosji Kurahara

    LOVE HOTEL (1985) 88min

    Director: Shinji Somae

    MADE TO ORDER CLOTH (aka JIROKICHI THE RAT) (Oatsurae Jirokichi Koshi) (1931) 70min

    Director: Daisuke Ito

    **Screening with:

    JIRAIYA THE NINJA (Goketsu Jiraiya) (1921) 30min

    Director: Shozo Makino

    MUD AND SOLDIERS (Tsuchi to Heitai) (1936) 120min

    Director: Tomotaka Tasaka

    THE OLDEST PROFESSION (Maruhi: Shikiyo Mesu Ichiba) (1974) 83min

    Director: Noboru Tanaka

    PIGS AND BATTLESHIPS (Buta to Gunkan) (1961) 108min

    Director: Shohei Imamura

    A POT WORTH A MILLION RYO (Tange Sazen Hyakuman Ryou no Tsubo) (1935) 92min

    Director: Sadao Yamanaka

    RETALIATION (Shima ha Moratta) (1967) 94min

    Director: Yasuharu Hasebe

    RUSTY KNIFE (Sabita Knife) (1958) 90min

    Director: Toshio Masuda

    SEASON OF THE SUN (Taiyo no Kisetsu) (1956) 89min

    Director: Takumi Furukawa

    SINGING LOVE BIRDS (Oshidori Uta Gassen) (1936) 69min

    Director: Masahiro Makino

    STRAY CAT ROCK: SEX HUNTER (Noraneko Rock: Sex Hunter) (1970) 86min

    Director: Yasuharu Hasebe

    SUN IN THE LAST DAYS OF THE SHOGUNATE (aka Shinagawa Path) (Bakumatsu Taiyoden) (1957) 110min

    Director: Yuzo Kawashima

    SUZUKI PARADISE: RED LIGHT (Suzuki Paradise: Aka Shingo) (1956) 81min

    Director: Yuzo Kawashima

    TAKE AIM AT THE POLICE VAN (Jusango Taihisen Yori: Sono Gososha wo Nerae) (1960) 79min

    Director: Seijun Suzuki

    THE TATTOOED FLOWER VASE (Kashinno Irezumi: Ureta Tsubo) (1979) 74min

    Director: Masaru Konuma

    TEN NIGHTS OF DREAMS (Yume Juya) (2007) 110min

    Director: Various

    TILL WE MEET AGAIN (Ashita Kuru Hito) (1955) 115min

    Director: Yuzo Kawashima

    TOKYO DRIFTER (Tokyo Nagaremono) (1966) 83min

    Director: Seijun Suzuki

    THE WARPED ONES (1960) 108min

    Director: Koreyoshi Kurahara

    THE WOMAN WITH RED HAIR (Akai Kami no Onna) (1979) 73min

    Director: Tatsumi Kumashiro

    A WORLD OF GEISHA (Yojyohan Fusuma no Urabari) (1973) 77min

    Director: Tatsumi Kumashiro

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    Vili Maunula

    Interesting! I must say that I have only heard of a handful of these films. Would be interesting to see them.

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    Ugetsu

    I’ll look out for that, I might actually be in New York in a month or so, this gives me an additional reason to visit. The only two of those films I’ve seen are The Burmese Harp (very beautiful, but politically a bit dubious) and Cold Fish, which is terrific if you have a strong stomach for gore.

    It is a little sad though to see how, like so many of the Japanese studios, its films became more exploitative after the 1950’s. I’ve heard though that of all the pinku film makers, Tatsumi Kumashiro is one of the most interesting – I missed The Woman with Red Hair when it was on a festival here in Dublin, but I was told its very powerful and beautiful.

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    dylanexpert

    Review of Nikkatsu Films at NYFF 49 (October 2011),

    I apologize in advance for the extreme length of this report.

    Japanese cinema is far from my only enthusiasm. I’m also a fanatical devotee of the popular music of the 1960s, though definitely not the kind of fan who’s content to rehash just the hits of the superstars. On the contrary, I love to explore all kinds of outrageously obscure artists and even overlooked genres of the music created during that era.

    And the more I listen to that music, the more certain I am that four artists of the ‘Sixties tower over all others as creative artists: Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix. At the same time, paradoxically, I’m also sure that I’ll never exhaust all the major and minor highways and byways of 1960s pop music; there will always be something strange and new and fascinating to listen to.

    In the same way, the more I delve into Japanese cinema, the more certain I am that, in the great tradition of this art form, two creators stand above all others: Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, with the brilliant but uneven Kenji Mizoguchi and Mikio Naruse a distant third and fourth, respectively. Yet, there have also been, in all eras since the mid-1920s, remarkable Japanese directors, major and minor, to discover, providing odd and wonderful aesthetic experiences and even, occasionally, socio-historical enlightenment.

    That fact is precisely what’s so great about a retrospective like Velvet Bullets and Steel Kisses: Celebrating the Nikkatsu Centennial at the recently concluded 49th New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center. Nikkatsu was Japan’s oldest major studio. According to Wikipedia, it was born in 1912 when several small production companies and theatre chains decided to unite. Nikkatsu did not associate itself with the popular shomingeki genre, as Shochiku Studios did, nor did it have the art-film prestige of Daiei (in the 1950s), nor the size and power of Toho. Instead, it strove to be the people’s entertainer. Its motto was “We Make Fun Films” and the series at Lincoln Center more than justifies this slogan.

    The four films I saw in this series, in the order in which I viewed them, were: Singing Lovebirds, aka Samurai Musical (Oshidori utagassen, 1939); Akanishi Kakita, aka Kakita Akanishi, aka Capricious Young Man, a jidaigeki comedy-drama (1936); Tange Sazen, or the Pot Worth a Million Ryo, aka The Million-Ryo Pot, a samurai comedy (Tange Sazen yowa: Hyakuman ryo no tsubo, 1935); and Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate, aka Sun Legend of the End of the Tokugawa Era, a period satire or black comedy (Bakumatsu taiyôden, 1957).

    Of the directors who made these films — Masahiro Makino, Mansaku Itami (the father of Juzo Itami), Sadao Yamanaka and Yuzo Kawashima, respectively — three were previously known to me only by name and reputation. As for the fourth, Yamanaka, I had seen before only one work of his, the great, tragic Humanity and Paper Balloons (Ninjō kami fūsen, 1937), which of course was featured in our Film Club for July 2010.

    I would describe these four films as follows: “strange but charming (Makino),” “innovative near-masterpiece (Itami),” “minor masterpiece (Yamanaka),” and, again, “innovative near-masterpiece (Kawashima).” Unfortunately, for scheduling reasons, I was unable to view two films in the series that I was dying to see: cinema pioneer Daisuke Ito’s multipart Diary of Chuji’s Travels (Chuji tabi nikki: Goyo hen, 1927) and Tomu Uchida’s Earth (Tsuchi, 1939), a film which Donald Richie raved about, but which is very seldom seen, even in its current incomplete form. (Excerpts of the latter film can be viewed, however, under its Japanese title, Tsuchi, on YouTube.)

    Each of the four films I saw bears witness to the astonishing range and depth of the craft tradition of Japanese cinema. With miserable and often outdated equipment, the Japanese industry created an astonishing variety of quality films from about 1926 (the year of the first Japanese Kinema Junpo magazine awards) to 1965, a forty-year run of excellence broken only briefly by the military government’s censorship from 1939 to 1945. (And even then, remarkable films, like Sanshiro Sugata and Ozu’s There Was a Father, managed to get made.) It’s fascinating to watch all four and see stylistic correspondences between them and both Ozu and Kurosawa (this is particularly true of Yamanaka’s film), and thus to realize that the distinct styles of those two masters did not emerge from a creative vacuum.

    Singing Lovebirds (literal title: “Mandarin Duck Song Competition”) is both a delightful and a surreal experience. The movie, set in the feudal period, rather resembles, of all things, Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, in that it is a musical made with actors who are clearly not trained singers. Also, like the Allen film (and most musicals, come to think of it), the plot, such as it is, is extremely dumb. The movie begins with a rich, spoiled young lady who complains about how bored she is while being wooed by various homely merchants, who offer her security but not the romance she craves. (All these characters sing their songs directly into the camera.) But it turns out that this character is not even the heroine of the picture; that would be another pretty lady (it’s hard to tell all these sweet young creatures apart), who complains to her eccentric samurai father (played by Takashi Shimura) about having to eat gruel instead of rice, because he’s spending all the family’s money on his beloved antiques. Meanwhile, she makes all the money that her father misspends by fashioning umbrellas to sell, while trying to get Reisaburo (Kataoka), who has something or other to do with all these umbrellas, to notice her. Meanwhile, both ladies are being wooed by a rich, spoiled feudal lord (played by Dick Mine [sic]), who’s also got a thing for antiques.

    The film’s main plot twist involves some rather bitter social critique, as the silly-ass lord spends a small fortune to buy the samurai father an expensive antique scroll he craves but can’t afford, ostensibly as a free gift. But then the lord crosses him up by suddenly demanding his daughter’s hand in marriage as “payment” for the scroll (while simultaneously trying to woo the rich girl). It turns out later that all the father’s antiques (including the scroll) are worthless, except for one pot he has always regarded as junk, but which turns out to be worth a fortune. At this discovery, Reisaburo, who hates the rich (!), rejects the now-wealthy young heroine, whereupon she smashes the priceless pot, so they can all be poor and happy again. (I told you the plot was dumb.) The movie is stolen, in my opinion, by the young, talented Mr. Mine, who was apparently a big deal in the prewar Japanese jazz club scene. To see his character walking down the street with his retainers, in full period garb, singing and dancing to a catchy ‘Thirties jazz song is a hoot!

    But, of course, the main interest in the film, for Kurosawa fans, is seeing Takashi Shimura in a very early role. Shimura, near the end of his life, admitted that he was ashamed of the films he had made other than those directed by Kurosawa, and it’s very unlikely that Singing Lovebirds was an exception. It becomes clear watching it that one of the most important lessons the actor learned in Kurosawa’s informal acting school was the virtue of restraint. There are moments (particularly when he’s singing) in Lovebirds when Shimura is quite charming, and others when he’s rather moving, such as when he discovers that the supposedly precious antiques he’s been collecting all his life are nothing but junk. But at other moments, Shimura’s acting is so over-the-top that he seems like a candidate for the samurai equivalent of the loony bin.

    On The Internet Movie Database (IMDB), I rated this movie an 8 out of a possible 10.

    Capricious Young Man also stars Chiezo Kataoka, but in this film, he’s literally unrecognizable in a double role: as a daimyo who’s instigating a rebellion against the shogun, and as Kakita Akanishi, a homely, comical samurai with large, dark eyebrows and a huge wart on his nose. This samurai would actually not look out-of-place hauling a pushcart on New York’s Lower East Side in the Depression era during which the picture was released.

    However, it turns out that, beneath his humble exterior, Akanishi is something of a genius — not to mention a spy for the shogun. After infiltrating the rebels and uncovering the plot, he is confronted with the problem of how to get the news to the shogun’s forces without arousing the rebels’ suspicions. He comes up with the clever solution of writing a love letter to a beautiful courtesan, which would allow him to depart the clan in humiliation after she publicly rejects him as expected. Instead, the lovely, innocent young lady inadvertently messes everything up when she confesses, in her reply, that she likes Akanishi… warts and all, so to speak.

    Somehow, he finesses this problem and departs, to the derision of the rebels — until evidence piles up, revealing to them that Akanishi is, in fact, the shogun’s spy. There follows a scene that could have come straight out of The Hidden Fortress. The rebels send out two samurai to find and kill Akanishi before he can betray them. However, they see nobody on the road but a procession of chanting Buddhist monks. But as the monks approach, the camera gazes under the sedge hat of one of them and we see… Akanishi, loudly chanting, as he passes safely by his inept pursuers.

    This movie is significant to AK fans for three reasons: it was the debut film of the thirty-one-year-old Takashi Shimura (though his role here is much smaller than in Singing Lovebirds); it was voted by AK as one of his 100 favorite films of all time (see below); and it was the movie that led Kurosawa’s trusty right-hand assistant, Ms. Teruyo Nogami, to go into the film industry, as described in her lovely memoir, Waiting on the Weather. Here is how she describes the effect that the opening scene of Capricious Young Man had on her as a schoolgirl:

    Seen from above, two oiled-paper umbrellas move together through the rain. Rain beats on a roof-tile imprinted with a seal depicting a sparrow and bamboo. A stray cat seeks shelter. The two samurai carrying the umbrellas walk along toward their lodgings, speaking of the new fellow, Akanishi.

    Although the scene as described seems simple, on the screen it is beautifully shot and dynamically edited, and immediately draws the audience into the world of the film, in the way that Kurosawa’s own opening scenes were later to do. Impressed, Ms. Nogami wrote a fan letter to Mansaku Itami to express her admiration. Amazingly, he wrote back, and a correspondence ensued in which Itami acted as a kind of remote-control sensei to the eager Nogami. (She would later assist Kurosawa on all his pictures from Rashomon on, except for The Idiot.)

    I gave this film a 9 out of 10 on IMDB.

    The biggest treat by far of the four films for me was Tange Sazen, or the Pot Worth a Million Ryo. The film stars, surprisingly, Denjiro Okochi as the one-eyed, one-armed title character. I say surprisingly because, in Kurosawa’s films, the actor invariably plays super-serious men: Sanshiro’s stern mentor, Yano, in both Sanshiro Sugata epics; Benkei, the brave and loyal retainer (and straight man to Enoken’s comic porter) in The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail; and Professor Yagihara, Setsuko Hara’s honest, persecuted father in No Regrets for Our Youth. In AK’s films, therefore, Okochi serves as a consistent symbol of patriarchal strength and virtue.

    But in Yamanaka’s film, Okochi reveals an unsuspected comic gift. The Sazen Tange series was initiated in the early 1930s by Daisuke Ito, introducing the character as (according to my sources) a kind of killing machine, a samurai Dirty Harry. Yamanaka’s instinct, however, was to subvert and humanize such characters. Thus, the fearsome swordsman appears as a mere bouncer at the archery gallery of his lover, the imperturbable Ofuji, spending most of his time, when not roughing up unruly customers, sleeping off hangovers in the gallery’s back room. (It’s as if Sergio Leone turned Clint Eastwood’s brutal Man With No Name of his spaghetti Westerns into a lovable lug.) Two of those unruly customers murder yet a third customer offscreen, leaving the latter’s young son an orphan, and Tange and Ofuji end up reluctantly adopting this boy. The child’s prize possession is a pot in which he keeps his goldfish, unaware that it contains a map to a million-dollar treasure. The pot had been discarded as junk by its previous owner (yet another silly-ass lord), who only later learns of its true value.

    The movie is a delight from beginning to end. It adapts the verve and quirky energy of the Hollywood comedies of the era to a Japanese feudal context, while avoiding almost all Hollywood’s customary pitfalls – even the little orphan boy is never sentimentalized. The highlight of the film is a sequence in which Tange goes to the foolish lord’s castle to challenge his retainers to a contest of skill in order to make some quick cash. The lord himself shows up and, after surreptitiously negotiating the fee Tange is willing to accept to “throw” the fight, engages in a triumphant duel with him that is as brief as it is hilarious.

    But the most original comic element in the film is the actress named Kiyozo as Ofuji, Tange’s relentlessly nagging lover. In an age in which young Japanese film actresses were invariably virginal and sweet, the beautiful, never-smiling Kiyozo comes across as neither. She’s utterly bored and unimpressed by her heroic partner, and much of the film’s comic tension comes from Tange’s attempts to gain the upper hand in the relationship (he always loses). Although a striking beauty, a natural comedian and a fine singer and musician as well, this picture would be Kiyozo’s only triumph: according to IMDB, she never made another movie.

    As for Yamanaka, although I’ve seen only two of his three surviving films, I think that he’s easily one of the top ten Japanese directors of all time. He shoots most scenes from a very low camera angle (now who does that remind you of?), while engaging in dynamic editing, including the frequent use of the wipe (now who does that remind you of?). Yet he has a confident style that is uniquely his, as well-suited to comedy as tragedy. He is surely Japanese cinema’s greatest prodigy. Less than six months older than Kurosawa, he made his first film in 1931, at age 21 – while AK was still a struggling painter, with no thought of a career in the film industry – and he released his last movie, Humanity and Paper Balloons, in 1937, when then-assistant director Kurosawa was still six years away from filming his debut. Drafted by the government, Yamanaka died in the army, of intestinal inflammation, at the age of only 28, after completing approximately two dozen films (sources differ as to the exact number). As a light period comedy, I believe Tange Sazen easily stands comparison with Sanjuro, or even perhaps The Hidden Fortress.

    I rated this movie 10 out of 10 on IMDB. YouTube clips from an excellent subtitled print of the film can be found here, here, here and here.

    Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate, set in the mid-19th Century after the West had invaded Japan, was the only one of the four films made during the Golden Age of Japanese Film in the 1950s, but its tone and values couldn’t be more different from such classics as, say, Tokyo Story or The Life of Oharu. It’s very significant, I think, that the director, Yuzo Kawashima, hired as his screenwriter and assistant the young future director Shohei Imamura, because Imamura’s characteristic themes and obsessions are all over this movie: the primal (particularly sexual) vitality of the lower classes, exploitation as the basis of all social relations, prostitution and deceit as survival strategies, irrationality as a perverse kind of grace. (Imamura considered Kawashima his mentor; the former’s much later film, Eijanaika (1981), set in the same time period, is sometimes said to be a remake of the Kawashima film, but from what I can recall from a single viewing many years ago, it’s a very loose remake.)

    The hero, known as The Trickster (played by Frankie Sakai, who reminds me a bit of the young Bob Hope), is a survivalist who scorns all ideals. He cooperates with a plot by some samurai to blow up the headquarters of the recently-arrived British “barbarians,” but only out of self-interest; as he explains to one of them, it is only privileged people like samurai who can afford to play politics; the exploited poor must live by their wits, with survival their only ideology. The plot is too complicated (and tedious) to go into here, but it mostly involves the Trickster’s having to work in a brothel to pay off his debts, which he does in astonishingly imaginative fashion. The film is very briskly paced, going like gangbusters from scene to scene, but this very rapidity, like the hero’s relentless cynicism, becomes wearying after awhile: at slightly under two hours, the film feels at least fifteen minutes too long. But there’s a certain poignancy in the fact that the Trickster, despite his cleverness, suffers throughout the film from what seems to be a bad case of tuberculosis that will probably kill him. For Kawashima (and, perhaps, Imamura as well), Death is the ultimate Trickster, who can never ultimately be outwitted.

    On IMDB, I rated this film a 9 out of 10.

    I know this report is long enough, but I’d just like to quote what Kurosawa himself had to say about the Itami, Yamanaka and Kawashima works, all of which made his Favorite 100 Films list (which is actually more like a favorite directors list). For the whole list, see here.

    [On Akanishi Kakita (Capricious Young Man):] “This movie of Mr. Itami is very innovative; he did, for example, make various experiments in it. A very, very interesting movie. It was very kind of him that he often approved my movies and/or gave pieces of advice to me. I was very, very glad.”

    [On Tange Sazen or the Pot Worth a Million Ryo:] “Mr. Yamanaka has been, when he has been working as an assistant, very quiet, he has been always somehow in a reverie, mumbling something to himself… But when he once became a director, he suddenly got eloquent, proved himself to be amazingly talented. It’s indeed a great loss for the Japanese movie industry that he died so young! Moreover, he didn’t save his films rightly. I am so sorry for it that I feel angry! What the hell did he think?!”

    [On Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate:] “This is an interesting, really enjoyable movie with a very good tempo. A rakugo piece “Inokori Saheiji” [“Saheiji, who reminded”] and another piece were arranged for this movie. Really well done. This director was very good at making comedies. It means his skill stands out from others.”

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    Ugetsu

    Wow, now I regret missing this even more! I’ve only seen one film by those filmmakers – Yamanaka’s ‘Humanity and Paper Balloons‘, and its wonderful. Great overview, dylanexpert, I hope those films are out some day on dvd I’d love to see them. Those clips from Tange Sazen are terrific, it made my morning to look at them. Isn’t it so interesting to see how an actress can do one terrific performance and then disappear into obscurity? Or maybe she had a big career in theater.

    In the same way, the more I delve into Japanese cinema, the more certain I am that, in the great tradition of this art form, two creators stand above all others: Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, with the brilliant but uneven Kenji Mizoguchi and Mikio Naruse a distant third and fourth, respectively.

    Pretty similar to my thoughts too, although I suspect I haven’t seen nearly as many of those period films (or delved as deeply into the literature) as you have.

    And the more I listen to that music, the more certain I am that four artists of the ‘Sixties tower over all others as creative artists: Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix.

    No Leonard Cohen? 😯 😮 😕

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    dylanexpert

    To Ugetsu:

    Leonard Cohen’s 60s work is great, but not, IMHO, on the level of those four.

    It’s true that I’ve seen a lot of Japanese cinema. But what’s distressing is that I’ve seen *many* more Japanese films than any Japanese national I’ve met here in the U.S. A good example is the young Japanese woman who told me she had seen only one Kurosawa film — Dersu Uzala, a work in the Russian language! Granted, this is all the younger generations; if I’d encountered older people with memories of the “golden age,” I’m sure they’d remember, fondly, many more movies. But the great masters are, I think, rather like prophets without honor in their own country.

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    Ugetsu

    dylanexpert

    But what’s distressing is that I’ve seen *many* more Japanese films than any Japanese national I’ve met here in the U.S.

    That is true – a couple of weeks ago I had three Japanese ladies in my apartment (ok, one of them is 2 years old!), and I found it a little sad that they looked a little perplexed at my collection of Ozu films, they didn’t know who he was. And they too, said they only knew a few Kurosawa-san films. But then again, I’ve often met people abroad who will rave about some Irish musician and be very puzzled that I never heard of him!

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    cocoskyavitch

    dylanexpert, I really thoroughly enjoyed your reviews of these films I haven’t yet seen. Very recently I came across the wonderful collection of old movie reviews from the New Yorker by Anthony Lane entitled “Nobody’s Perfect”. Lane states he believes that …

    “of all the duties required of the professional critic, the least important-and the least enduring- is the delivery of a verdict”.

    Amen, what?

    What he does believe valuable is the recreaton in words of filmic texture-the filing of a “sensory report”-not a directive on what to see.

    I think you have done that admirably! (and your “IMDB verdicts” are a link one need not click) thanks for the color, light and texture!

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    Vili Maunula

    Brilliant stuff, dylanexpert! We have Japanese film festivals here every now and then, but they tend to show more recent works and rarely jewels like the ones you have had the chance to see here. Like Ugetsu, I hope that those films will find their way into DVD one day. Your descriptions definitely made me interested in seeing these films.

    It’s so true what you write about many contemporary Japanese people not being familiar with the old classics. I guess that’s one of the reasons why Kurosawa Production is/was pushing for contemporary remakes — to get the young audiences interested in Kurosawa. On the other hand, I think that this is quite common everywhere. Old films, like old literature, is part of the cultural discourse, but few people actually take the time to check them out. Of course, literature at least is taught to some extent in schools (although I’m not sure if forcing fairly young people to read thick old novels written for an audience older than them is the best way to get them to appreciate those books).

    In one of your reviews, you mentioned that “Shimura, near the end of his life, admitted that he was ashamed of the films he had made other than those directed by Kurosawa”. This was news to me, or then I have forgotten something. Do you remember where you read that? And are you sure that you are not thinking about Toshiro Mifune’s 1982(-ish?) interview where he says pretty much the same thing?

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    Amnesty11

    Just a note of hello to everyone in this fascinating forum. I just found this site and have been reading the posts and thoroughly enjoying them. Unfortunately, my timing is way off… I just watched Drunken Angel this week, High and Low last week, The Bad Sleep Well the week before etc. I am out of synch with the group…when does your next movie selection take place? I will try to rent Sansho the Bailiff soon so I can participate this time around…

    Dylanexpert, I haven’t done the research, but do you think that the films you mentioned at the Nikkatsu film festival in New York would be available to buy or rent? Or are they non-disbruted w

    Thank you for your enormously helpful posts. It is Great to find gentlemen and gentlewomen with such alacrity of mind.

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    Ugetsu

    I am out of synch with the group…when does your next movie selection take place? I will try to rent Sansho the Bailiff soon so I can participate this time around…

    Hello and welcome, Amnesty11, it would be great to have another voice in the discussions. The full list of films for the AKFilm Club is here. Next up is Scandal. But its not a full structure, as you can see, most of us are happy to discuss any Kurosawa film (or indeed, any Japaneese film or related films or books) anytime, so feel free to launch in on whatever topic interests you.

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    Vili Maunula

    A little off-topic, but welcome to the group, Amnesty11!

    Ugetsu already pointed you to the film club schedule. However, if you want to, also take the time to briefly (or longly) introduce yourself!

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