Although this month’s film club discussion of Kurosawa’s two Sanshiro Sugata films hasn’t been exactly lively, I think Chris has more than made up for it by providing quality where there has been something of a lack of quantity. If you haven’t yet, I recommend that you take a look at the discussion threads titled Instances of Buddhism and Shintoism, Any verification for this absurdity?, and Mining the shallows.
In ‘Mining the shallows’, Chris touches on the question how much of a propaganda film Sanshiro Sugata and its sequel really are. This is a question that we can extend also to the film that we will now be adding to the mix, Kenji Mizoguchi‘s 1941-42 work The 47 Ronin. While Mizoguchi’s two-part film certainly conforms to many of the requirements of wartime propaganda, it could nevertheless be said that Mizoguchi escapes in the film into the past and into a style of film making which makes it possible for him to avoid many of the pitfalls of pure, run-of-the-mill propaganda.
In fact, what Chris has written about Buddhism and Shintoism in Sanshiro Sugata may similarly be quite relevant to The 47 Ronin, whose source material as Peter B. High notes in The Imperial Screen has “obvious spiritist connotations”. (305) The basic tale, something of a national legend in Japan, is based on a historical event, which has been turned into a film numerous times. Actually, one of the most recent productions is scheduled to come out in 2012, and has Keanu Reeves attached in a starring role. For his own film, Mizoguchi used a kabuki play rather than the historical account as his source: for more information about the play, see here and here.
Copies of The 47 Ronin are available from at least eBay and Amazon. And as a reminder, on the 1st of October, we will be turning to another wartime film, Kurosawa’s The Most Beautiful. See the film club page for more information about our schedule.
Finally, a question: is the pace of the film club too fast for you, and should we rather have a new title once a month like we used to, and not two titles a month as we do now? Personally, I am having difficulties keeping up with the films, and must confess that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to watch Sanshiro Sugata II this month. I’ll do my best to catch up, of course.