Chikuzan Takahashi, in his late sixties at the time of filming, is a blind musician who has spent most of his life on the roads of Northern Japan, earning his living as a tsugaru shamisen player. Latterly he acquired a devoted following among Japanese students, which is why Shindo made The Life of Chikuzan. The movie opens with Chikuzan himself in concert, then moves into a drama-documentary reconstruction of his early years, from his impoverished parents’ desperate attempts to find a livelihood for him to his successful second marriage. Shindo keeps the travelogue elements to a decent minimum, and doesn’t shy away from the harshness of Chikuzan’s stoicism or lapse into sentimentality. He also chooses incidents with an eye to more than his subject’s biography alone. The music, of course, is sublime.
Tag Archives: Japan
Bara kassen / Battle of Roses (1950) Mikio Naruse, Kuniko Miyake, Setsuko Wakayama, Yôko Katsuragi, Drama
In Japan, after the death of Mr. Masago, her wife Satomi Masago loses the family’s company “Lily Cosmetic” to Mr. Mogy due to huge amount of debts relative to withdraws of money from the company made by her husband. Mogy blackmails Satomi’s sister Hinako, asking her to marry him and he would not send Masago to jail, and Satomi wrongly understands that Hinako is dating her enemy Mogy. Satomi Masago founds the “Niagera Cosmetic” to compete with Lily and becomes a powerful executive. Hinako indeed likes Sonoike, former employee of Toyo Pictures and hired to work in Niagera, but Satomi plots the marriage of Hinako with her manager Tsuke Hinjatsu. Meanwhile, their young sister Chisuzu Satomi decides to live with the small time crook and pimp Ejima, from “Fashion & Films”, being explored and abused by him. When Masago hires her lover Kojima to be the account of Niagera, she finds that Hinatsu is stealing the company with his mistress Yamashita.
Bakuretsu toshi / Burst City (1982) Gakuryû Ishii, Michirô Endô, Shigeru Izumiya, Takanori Jinnai, Action, Music, Sci-Fi
Hanare banareni / Kuro (2012) Daisuke Shimote, Daisuke Iijima, Hikari Kajiwara, Airi Kido, Drama, Romance
The story begins in modern Tokyo, following three young people. Kuro is a girl working part-time job at a bakery, but gets fired and ends up without a goal in life. About the same time, Eito, a photographer, breaks up with his long-term girlfriend Nana and gets his camera destroyed. Meanwhile Gou, a theater director, looses the lead actress for his new production and has only few days to find a new one. These three individuals meet by coincidence, and as a mean to escape the reality begin living together at a deserted inn near the sea. The movie portraits the feeling of distance and of friendship between the characters, dwells on the concept of attaining the ‘real freedom of spirit’, and is a portrait of a young generation of Japanese society. The movie has no BGM apart from music and sounds of nature heard by characters themselves, and according to the director, the shooting concept was to keep the dialog to a minimum. Furthermore, each scene was shot in one long take to emphasize …
Based on the Noh drama with the same name, The Iron Crown is about a woman plotting revenge against her husband who leaves her for a younger woman. Shindo’s adaptation juxtaposes the Noh drama with a modern update of the story. The husband is now a car salesman, the young woman a typist. The wife gets her revenge by harassing the couple with unwanted phone calls at night.
Han yeo-reum-ui pan-ta-ji-a / A Midsummer’s Fantasia (2014) Kun-jae Jang, Sae-byeok Kim, Hyeong-gook Im, Ryo Iwase, Drama
Split into two parts, shot in black and white, the opening chapter First Love, Yoshiko follows a Korean director (Lim Hyung-kook) who is scouting for locations for his next film in the Japanese rural town of Gojo, and is joined by his assistant director Mijung (Kim Sae-byuk) who interprets for him. There he meets the locals including an elderly lady and a civil servant (Ryo Iwase) who helps him tour the area. The second part, Well of Sakura, captured in colour, is inspired by a story told in the opening chapter of a romance between a Korean woman and a local man. Mijung is now an actress while the civil servant is a persimmon farmer as they walk around the town and learn about each other.
Taking up the argument of ‘Onibaba’ (1964), the nonagenarian Director Kaneto Shindo places the action in the eighties: a mother and her daughter are mired in the deepest misery, eating only pine roots. To get out of poverty both shall exercise at home as geisha, but at the same time they will poison men who go parading around to take their money. The mechanism used is always the same: as a gift to the victim, they offered a glass of sake that, once ingested, makes them foam at the mouth uttering animal howls and dying in convulsions.
Otona no miru ehon – Umarete wa mita keredo / I Was Born, But… (1932) Yasujirô Ozu, Tatsuo Saitô, Tomio Aoki, Mitsuko Yoshikawa, Comedy, Drama
Two young brothers become the leaders of a gang of kids in their neighborhood. Their father is an office clerk who tries for advancement by playing up his boss. When the boys visit the boss’ house with their father, they discover that their dad has been making a fool of himself to please his boss, who’s son is an outwitted member of the boys’ gang. The brothers’ revolt claiming that hierarchy should be based on ability, not on social background. Ozu’s charming film is a social satire that draws from the antics of childhood as well as the tragedy of maturity.