Tag: Japan

April 6, 2010 / / Main Slate

By William Benker

Throne of Blood – 1957 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

The power of prophecy and influence drives Akira Kurosawa’s revitalized Macbeth in Throne of Blood.  In the midst of feudal Japan, Washizu (played by Kurosawa regular, Toshiro Mifune) bears witness to the complete corruption and dissection of himself by his own hand.  Kurosawa’s grim look at the sheer power of outside influence strikes at the heart of Throne of Blood, truly expressing what is sacrificed when one loses himself in another’s foreboding.  The intricate maze of self-deception, paranoia and selfishness leaves little to wonder at beside the rigid forest that guards Spider Web Castle.

March 29, 2010 / / Main Slate

By William Benker

Seven Samurai – 1954 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

The philosophical insight Akira Kurosawa unleashes in his epic Seven Samurai stands above most war films ever produced.  Though the portrayal of war is common among films, the true essence of conflict itself is often times overlooked.  The manner and tempo with which Kurosawa delivers his epic is where the message emerges.  With a steady pace and extensive view into every facet of struggle, the director breaches the threshold of cinematic philosophy into a new realm of artistic meaning.  In 16th century Japan, the framework of conflict is embodied within seven selfless warriors who use all of their abilities to defeat a clan of bandits.  Kurosawa’s stark vision of life itself is extrapolated in the picture.  Constantly put into question by smaller battles along the way, the director paints a decadent landscape of morality, giving audiences the very essence of cinema and story in its most ancient form.  Seven Samurai is a perfect step-by-step guide into the very heart of conflict.

December 16, 2009 / / Main Slate

By Andrew Palmacci

Strange Brew – 1983 – dir. Rick Moranis

When you talk about the wide-ranging genre of movie comedies, there are few sub-genres more extreme in their risibility factor than the screwball comedy. Made most famous by Blake Edwards’ series of Pink Panther films, and with a lineage traceable to Frenchman Jacques Tati’s wacky Mr. Hulot suite of pictures (if not to the silent films of Chaplin and Keaton), the screwball is an oft-overlooked and under-recognized part of the overall comedic film output in current times, though there are definitely examples thereof in today’s cinematic world. Released only a year after the last Pink Panther movie, Trail of the Pink Panther, Strange Brew (1983) could be seen as the filmic missing link between the post-war screwballs of the 50s and 60s, namely Panther, and movies of the ‘90s that were spawned from Saturday Night Live sketches (Chris Farley flics, say) or those of the Farrelly brothers. Itself a product of the Canadian sketch show “SCTV,” Strange Brew benefited from the cross-over appeal of its stars—Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis (the latter’s feature debut)—and its concept: two beer-drinking buffoons who make their way around their Toronto, Ontario, Canada-area locale, punctuating their sentences with numerous eh!’s, following hockey, and feeding their dog, Hosehead, at their parents’ house. And to under-, or over-, score the grandiosity of Thomas’ and Moranis’ vein of humor, the super-title to the movie is The Adventures of Bob and Doug McKenzie.  Oh, and there’s a major Hamlet tie-in as well. Let’s take a closer look.

December 31, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Peggy Nelson

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence – dir. Nagisa Oshima – 1983

Prisoner of war films offer an eye-of-the-storm perspective from which to contemplate the chaos of war.  In the tradition of Jean Renoir’s The Grand Illusion (1937), and David Lean’s Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957), Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence investigates the psyches of men from very different cultures in this tale of British captives in a Japanese POW camp.  Co-written by Oshima and Paul Mayersberg from an Afrikaner’s published memoirs, Oshima uses the perspective of the non-Japanese to turn his lens on WWII Japan.

December 31, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Peggy Nelson

In the Realm of the Senses – dir. Nagisa Oshima – 1976

Nagisa Oshima’s tale of sexual obsession, In the Realm of the Senses, retains the power to shock despite being over 30 years old.  Based on a true story, the film concerns one Sada Abe, found wandering the streets of 1936 Tokyo with her lover’s severed penis in her hand, who upon her arrest became a media sensation and folk heroine.  Realm features non-simulated sex between the actors, BDSM, graphic violence, and other controversial elements that may or may not appear depending on what version you’re viewing, and where you’re viewing it.   Widely banned upon release, it is perhaps Oshima’s best-known film.