Blog Archives

The Quiet Duel (1949)

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It’s not every day you get to see a film focusing on the medical response to syphilis and the emotional torment of one of the disease’s sufferers.

I can’t say this particular absence in my film viewing habits to date particularly irks me. There’s only so much a spectator can tolerate when submitted to endless studies of a pent-up and remorseful Toshiro Mifune (infected with syphilis) pining in sexual frustration over his (spotless, timid, frail, i.e. stereotyped) wife to never … (read more)

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The 47 Ronin (1962)

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The 47 Ronin has been called Japan’s national epic, a dramatic legend based on real events at the beginning of the 18th century. These events almost immediately inspired both kabuki and bunraku plays, some of which are still performed today. In addition, the story of the 47 Ronin has been filmed many times, a testament to its popularity inside Japan and abroad. Most popular amongst the film adaptations are Kenji Mizoguchi’s wartime version, released in 1941, and this version: Toho … (read more)

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Throne of Blood (1957)

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Fans of Japanese cinema and excellent cinema in general should be no strangers to the works of Akira Kurosawa. Regular readers will have seen me (and others here, too!) swoon and spout hyperbole over many of his films. With good reason, mind you — many of them have become fixtures in critics’ lists of top films: action masterpiece The Seven Samurai, lone samurai classics Yojimbo and Sanjuro, study in truth Rashomon and the colour-drenched epic Ran in particular.

Shamelessly, … (read more)

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Rashomon (1950)

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“I don’t care if it’s a lie, as long as it’s entertaining.” — the commoner in response to the woodcutter and the priest’s accounts of the murder.

So here we have it, a movie featuring a completely unreliable plot that never provides a factual answer to the crucial murder mystery at its core, that pieces together falsehoods, speculations and fabricated accounts one after another, that boldly misdirects viewers right through to its conclusion, and yet has somehow managed to absorb … (read more)

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Samurai 3: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956)

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Hiroshi Inagaki’s celebrated third Samurai film, Duel at Ganryu Island, brings to a close his series chronicling the life of historical figure Musashi Miyamoto. The first film, Musashi Miyamoto, followed the young villager Takezo as he sought fame and fortune in battle. The second, Duel at Ichijoji Temple, tells the story of his enlightenment and induction into the world of the samurai. In the third film, Musashi is known throughout Japan and sought after as both a … (read more)

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Drunken Angel (1948)

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This is one of my favourite Akira Kurosawa’s movies set in contemporaneous times – not a saumrai in sight, although Toshiro Mifune appears almost as animalistic and out of control here in his first collaboration with Kurosawa as he does in some of his most famous samurai roles (Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, Yojimbo). He is not the drunkard of the movie’s translated title, however. The alcoholic is Takashi Shimura’s doctor, Sanada, whose contempt … (read more)

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Ikiru (1952)

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You know the story. The terminally ill protagonist is going to spend the final months of his life on a quest for redemption, right? Well, sort of. The thing that distinguishes Ikiru from its countless imitators (I reviewed one of its more distant descendants, the South Korean Short Time, a few months ago) is that the main character, Watanabe, is not such a bad guy to start with. Yes, he is a bureaucrat who has spent his entire life … (read more)

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Kwaidan (1964)

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Kwaidan came out of left-field for me. I’ve not studied film academically, and although I’m a fan of Japanese film, I’ve not seen anywhere near as much as some of my compatriots here. Nonetheless, I’ve heard about Kwaidan — usually mentioned on places like the Mobius forums in the textual equivalent of reverential tones. So, I stuck my hand up for it when a copy arrived for review, and I’m glad I did.

Kwaidan is a collection of four short … (read more)

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