One of the great stories from Japan’s rich history comes to life in this true tale of the bloody showdown between two rival yakuza gangs in the 1840’s. The battle between Boss Sukegoro of Iioka and Boss Shigezo of Sasagawa has been portrayed many times, most notably in the first Zatoichi film, where the blind man befriends the tubercular ronin Hirate Miki, before cutting him down in one of the great duels in cinema history. This all-star extravaganza pulls out all the stops, with appearances by virtually all of the great actors and actresses from Toei’s studio at the time. Ichikawa Utaemon’s portrayal of the kind-hearted, noble yakuza boss Shigezo of Sasagawa contrasts sharply with the devious Sukegoro of Iioka. Corrupt as he may have been, his men were all willing to give up their lives for him.
Tag Archives: Japan
Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky (2009) Jan Kounen, Anna Mouglalis, Mads Mikkelsen, Elena Morozova, Drama
Paris 1913. Coco Chanel is infatuated with the rich and handsome Boy Capel, but she is also compelled by her work. Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is about to be performed. The revolutionary dissonances of Igor’s work parallel Coco’s radical ideas. She wants to democratize women’s fashion; he wants to redefine musical taste. Coco attends the scandalous first performance of The Rite in a chic white dress. The music and ballet are criticized as too modern, too foreign. Coco is moved but Igor is inconsolable. Paris 1920, Coco is newly wealthy and successful but grief-stricken after Boy’s death in a car crash. Igor, following the Russian Revolution is now a penniless refugee living in exile in Paris. Coco is introduced to Igor by Diaghilev, impresario of the Ballets Russes. The attraction between them is instant and electric. Coco invites Igor along with his wife – now sick with consumption – together with his four children and a menagerie of birds to stay at her new villa, Bel …
In 1983, photographer Gocho Shigeo met an early death at the young age of 36. The view we see reflected in Gocho’s photographic images has become more profound over time since his death and has struck a chord in people’s hearts. While focusing on Gocho’s collection of photographs Self and Others, the film also visits places associated with him, creating a collage with the manuscripts, letters, photographs and voice recordings remaining in an attempt to capture “one more gesture”—a theme pursued by Gocho through photographic expression. This film is neither a critical biography nor a monograph on the photographer. Rather, we are offered a new perception. As if mesmerized, the photographs Gocho left behind captivate us in their gaze.
Dr. Akagi / Kanzô sensei (1998) Shôhei Imamura, Akira Emoto, Kumiko Asô, Jacques Gamblin, Comedy, Drama, History
Dr. Akagi, a rural physician in Japan during WWII, wages a one-man crusade against hepetitis, earning him a reputation as “Dr. Liver.” But his fanatic campaign brings him into disfavor with the Japanese army, and as the war seems more and more hopeless for the Japanese, Dr. Akagi finds himself increasingly a scapegoat.
At the beginning of the film the father-in-law of the protagonist dies unexpectedly of a heart attack. The remainder of the film is episodic, moving from one incident to another over the course of the three-day funeral, which is held (as is customary) in the home. These incidents contrast old ways and new ways, young and old, ritual ceremony and true feelings, often comically, but sometimes with real poignancy.
In this humorous paean to the joys of food, the main story is about trucker Goro, who rides into town like a modern Shane to help Tampopo set up the perfect noodle soup restaurant. Woven into this main story are a number of smaller stories about the importance of food, ranging from a gangster who mixes hot sex with food, to an old woman who terrorizes a shopkeeper by compulsively squeezing his wares.
Heavenly Sin / Tengoku no Taizai (1992) Toshio Masuda, Sayuri Yoshinaga, Omar Sharif, Hiroki Matsukata, Crime, Drama, Romance
Prisoner Maria: The Movie / Joshû shokeinin Maria: Gekijô-ban (1995) Shûji Kataoka, Noriko Aota, Tetsuo Kurata, Kôji Shimizu, Crime, Pinku, Romance, Erotic
Convicted of killing the drug dealer who murdered her husband, Maria is blackmailed into serving as a covert assassin. She must do the government’s bidding if she is ever to regain her freedom, or her son. With each completed mission, her sentenced is further re- duced. Yet, with every job she feels further away from her goal of a peaceful life.
Haha wa Shinazu / Mother Never Dies (1942) Mikio Naruse, Takako Irie, Yukiko Todoroki, Ichirô Sugai, Drama
The story begins in 1929 with Sugai (Sugai Ichiro) losing his job in the stock- market crash. He works his way up, over the course of the narrative, from mirror-cleaner in a barber shop, to cleaning product salesman, to mechanic (he studies at night), to inventor, to company president. At this second-to-last stage, when his boss offers him money for his patent, he declines, saying that he did it for the good of the country and for his wife’s memory. He receives enough money for her gravestone but eventually is given a factory to run, and eventually a whole company.
A delightful and moving coming-of-age story. One summer, three young boys take an increasing interest in an eccentric old man who lives alone in a house surrounded by an overgrown garden. The boys form a bond with the recluse and set about weeding and replanting the garden.