Saturday, October 30, 2010

Incomplete Mediocrity

Aizen Katsura (1938)

The year was 1938.

For film lovers, it is the year of BRINGING UP BABY, ALEXANDER NEVSKY and THE LADY VANISHES. At the same time, it was anticipating the great year of 1939. In Japan, however, it was the year with few notable works. Sadao Yamanaka was drafted to military the previous year and died in China in September of 1938. Yasujiro Ozu was also drafted. Mikio Naruse and Kenji Mizoguchi were struggling with minor works.

But Japanese movie-going public at the time saw the most phenomenal film of the prewar era this year. In terms of popularity, no prewar Japanese film would beat this film. Directed by Hiromasa Nomura, starred Kinuyo Tanaka and Ken Uehara, it was the box-office record at the time, and the sequels were hurriedly prepared. The film was AIZEN KATSURA.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ryo Ikebe (1918 - 2010)

Ryo Ikebe, a popular Japanese actor from forties through seventies, passed away last week. He was 92.

Internationally, he is probably best known for the lead character in Ozu's EARLY SPRING (1956). In Japan, he was considered to be a very versatile actor, from melodrama (AOI SANMYAKU (1949)) to Yakuza movies (SHOWA ZANKYO DEN (1965)). Also, he acted as a conscience in Japanese film actor circles. However, in later years, he gradually shifted his activities from acting to writing. He published dozens of books, mostly essays and his experience during the war.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Then And Now, Again

In Ozu's "There Was A Father", the pivotal moment early in the film was the school trip to Hakone. Below is the Ashinoko, the Lake in Hakone area. Hakone has been one of the most popular resorts in Japan, being close to Tokyo metropolis. This is 1942, almost 70 years ago.
Ashinoko and Mt. Fuji, "There Was A Father (1942)"

This is Ashinoko now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kochiyama Soshun

Kochiyama Soshun, Setsuko Hara

When I finished watching it, I didn't want to see it again. It gradually descended into depressing finale, killing off every lovable character one by one. The survivor is the reckless kid who started all. No, it's not fun.

Then, after a day or two, it started to crawl back on me. That scene. The duel between Kochiyama and Kaneko. They were determined to have it. Kochiyama, a local gambler and a bookie, and Kaneko, a Yojimbo for the local gang leader, were destined to have it. But when they are on the verge of bursting into action, for the reason nobody knows, Onami (Setsuko Hara, only 15 years old) shows up. The (anti)climax of this duel is the best of all cinematic duels.
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