Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nuclear Noir

Kiss Me Deadly

The ending of Kiss Me Deadly (1955) has been a center of debate among its fans and critics, while the authentic ending is now in place and the alternate one is offered as an extra. As Gabrielle opens the Pandora’s Box, she is exposed to the bright light of the Hell, detonating the ultimate Doomsday device. In physics, that bright (blue) light is actually called Cherenkov radiation, and anyone who sees it too closely will die a horrible death. Intense light, including Cherenkov radiation, is created by critical state of nuclear materials, emitting enormous amount of nuclear radiation, such as alpha, beta and gamma radiations.

Then, in the case of ”Kiss Me Deadly”, how much radiation are we talking about?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Two More Fragments

Denjiro Okochi as Tange Sazen

The previous post discussed the art of Jidaigeki in 1920s. Here are two more rare film clips of Denjiro Okochi.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Going Berserk

1920’s was the era of Jidaigeki in Japanese cinema. In spite of its popularity (or rather, because of it), only handful of the masterpieces of the era survived. Matsunosuke Onoe was the first Japanese cinema star and the most popular among kids during 1910’s and 20’s, but it was the late 20’s that saw the pinnacle of Jidaigeki. So I heard. In 1925, Daisuke Ito created “Chuji Tabi Nikki (忠治旅日記)” Trilogy with Denjiro Ohkochi, one of the most influential Jidaigeki in the Japanese cinema history. "Shin-ban Ooka Seidan (新版大岡政談, 1928, Dir. Daisuke Ito)", "Zanzin Zanba Ken (斬人斬馬剣, 1929, Dir. Daisuke Ito)", "Ronin Gai Trilogy (浪人街三部作, 1928-29, Dir. Masahiro Makino)" were considered the masterpieces of the day by whom ever saw them. Very few of these materials are available to us, many of which are in incomplete form.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bluebird Photoplays

A Society Sensation (1918)

Early Japanese cinema were, of course, under the influence of D. W. Griffith, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and other early Hollywood cinema. Serial photoplays from Unites States and France, in addition to fast-paced westerns and Max Linder comedies were also textbook materials. Intolerance sent shockwave through young cinema lovers, while Zigomar was so sensational that it had to be banned in fear of copycat crimes. The films of Mourice Tourner, Thomas Ince and other Hollywood notables, plus early Italian epic films, and German Expressionisms were all flooding the Japanese cinema theaters. These films were universally acclaimed as influential and popular, so no surprise here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What are they eating ?

Tokyo Story

In one scene in "Tokyo Story", Fumiko, Koichi's wife, speaks of "Kid's Lunch Plate". What is it?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Frames Per Second

Asakusa District 6, the town of movie theaters (1910)

What is the right speed for silent film projection? 16fps. That’s the standard. Right? Or, somewhere between 12 and 24 fps, some says. There are on-going debates about the speed even for Hollywood studio films in twenties, let alone some early films of 1910s and 1900s. When it comes to early Japanese cinema, the question sounds like a bad joke. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Buzz of A Honeybee and the Island of the Holy

Holy Island (2010)

Iwai-shima, a small island of 7.67 square kilometers in its area and 12 kilometers in its perimeter, is a part of Kaminoseki/Kumage county of Yamaguchi prefecture. It is located in the west end of the Seto Island Sea (the sea you see in Ozu's "Tokyo Story"), just several kilometers off the coast of the main land. The population is only little more than 500, roughly 70% of which are over seventy years old. These aging islanders are making living by line fishing and small-scale farming on steep slopes of the island. The place is often hit by typhoons, which sometimes damage a large part of the small village. Though the name Iwai-shima means "the island of celebration", the life is not easy for them. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

An Apron as a Weapon

Setsuko Hara in Shido-Monogatari (指導物語, 1940) Dir. Hisatora Kumagai

Many people believe that an oppressive, totalitarian government is designed by a group of devils wearing human skins. The nation is hypnotized by cunning propaganda, led to believe the blood-tainted doctrine, and subliminally conditioned to sacrifice their life for those devils. Today, we would notice these devils when we see them. A modern democratic society will not tolerate such a diabolical political process. So we believe.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Photograph, 1936

In 1936, Japan Film Directors Society was formed. This was a group photograph of the occasion.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Empire of Fantasies

Geishunka (迎春花,1943) Dir. Yasushi Sasaki

In 1923, the massive earthquake hit the Kanto area. Unprecedented in modern history of Japan, with more than 100,000 causalities, the large part of metropolitan area was burnt to ground. One of the horrifying events in this catastrophe was ethnic cleansing of Koreans by Japanese survivors. Vicious rumors were spread through the frightened people in the devastated area; Koreans were poisoning drinking water, torching houses and preparing for communist revolution. Vigilantes searched for suspected "Koreans" (whoever they considered Koreans) and lynched them to death. In reality, the vicious rumors were spread by Tokyo Police Department. It may sound incredible, but Matsutaro Shoriki, the head of the Anti-terrorism unit in TPD at the time, devised the scheme for ethnic cleansing. Shoriki went on to become the owner of Yomiuri News, the largest news agency in Japan, an Class-A war criminal, and a Congressman. Many pointed out that he used this opportunity to suppress Left-wing-Labor union activities. However, there is no practical clear reason for cleansing Koreans in this context.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Masumura, Ichikawa and Ozu

The Most Valuable Wife (Saiko Shukun Fujin, 1959, dir. Yasuzo Masumura)

Speed of Growth

In the age of global economy, a self-proclaimed expert announces "your bond is no longer as secure as it used to be" and then whole world goes berserk. A large part of transactions of securities, stocks, bonds, foreign currencies and other monetary entities is processed by computer algorithms without human intervention, in less than a microsecond over the continents. A myriad of security firms, banks, and other companies you never knew how to pronounce their names, destroy your retirement plan in two seconds. Most of us are jittery because off-shoring project in process in the floor below will mean next wave of layoffs in this floor. Yes, this is the ultimate form of the Captialism as we know it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nobuko Rides on a Cloud

Nobuko Rides on a Cloud (ノンちゃん雲に乗る)

1955, Shin-Toho

Prod. Hisatora Kumagai, Hiroji Nakata

Dir. Fumindo Kurata

Fumindo Kurata, Setsuko Murayama
Haruko Wanibuchi, Setsuko Hara, Susumu Fujita

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Postwar Kurosawa: Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai (七人の侍)

1954, Toho

Prod. Soujiro Motoki

Dir. Akira Kurosawa 

Writer Shinobu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Ogunii, Cinematography  Asakazu Nakai, Music Fumio Hayasaka

Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune

Monday, July 18, 2011

Postwar Kurosawa: Ikiru

Ikiru (生きる)

1952, Toho

Prod. Soujiro Motoki

Dir. Akira Kurosawa 

Writer Osamu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Kokuni, Cinematography  Asakazu Nakai, Music Fumio Hayasaka

Takashi Shimura, Nobuo Kaneko, Miki Odagiri

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Postwar Kurosawa: The Idiot

The Idiot (白痴)

1951, Shochiku

Prod. Takashi Koide

Dir. Akira Kurosawa 

Writer Eijiro Hisasaka, Akira Kurosawa, Cinematography  Toshio Ikukata, Music Fumio Hayasaka

Masayuki Mori, Toshiro Mifune, Setsuko Hara, Takashi Shimura

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Postwar Kurosawa: Rashomon

Rashomon (羅生門)

1950, Daiei

Prod. Jingo Minoura

Dir. Akira Kurosawa 

Writer Shinobu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa, Cinematography  Kazuo Miyagawa, Music Fumio Hayasaka

Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyoi, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Postwar Kurosawa: Scandal

Scandal (醜聞)

1950, Shochiku

Prod. Takashi Koide

Dir. Akira Kurosawa 

Writer Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa, Cinematography  Toshio Ikukata, Music Fumio Hayasaka

Toshiro Mifune, Yoshiko Yamagushi, Takashi Shimura

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Postwar Kurosawa: The Stray Dog

The Stray Dog (野良犬)

1949, Toho

Prod. Soujiro Motoki

Dir. Akira Kurosawa 

Writer Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa, Cinematography  Asakazu Nakai, Music Fumio Hayasaka

Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Isao Kimura

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Postwar Kurosawa: The Quiet Duel

The Quiet Duel (静かなる決闘)

1949, Daiei
Prod. Soujiro Motoki, Hisao Ichikawa
Dir. Akira Kurosawa 
Writer Senkichi Taniguchi, Akira Kurosawa, Cinematography  Souichi Aizaka, Music Akira Ifukube
Toshiro Mifune,
Takashi Shimura, Kenjiro Uemura, Miki Sanjo, Noriko Sengoku

In March 1948, Kurosawa, Soujiro Motoki, Kajiro Yamamoto and Senkichi Taniguchi formed “Eiga Geijutu Kyoukai (Cinema Art Society)”. Toho was at the last stage of Labor Union Conflict at the time and not a good place to direct a film. Kurosawa was deeply disappointed with the Union movement and left Toho for Daiei to direct his next film. “The Quiet Duel” is based on popular stage play, “Abortion Doctor”, by Kazuo Kikuta. The stage production (Minoru Chiaki as a lead) was a success, partly due to its provocative title. Kurosawa saw this production and was excited about its potential as a film material. Working title for the film was “Punishment without Crime”.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Postwar Kurosawa: Drunken Angel

Drunken Angel (酔いどれ天使)

1948, Toho
Prod. Soujiro Motoki
Dir. Akira Kurosawa 
Writer Keinosuke Uekusa, Akira Kurosawa, Cinematography  Takeo Ito, Music Ryouichi Hattori, Fumihiko Hayasaka
Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune, Reizaburo Yamamoto, Michiyo Kogure, Noriko Sengoku

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Postwar Kurosawa: One Wonderful Sunday

One Wonderful Sunday (素晴らしき日曜日)

1947, Toho
Prod. Soujiro Motoki
Dir. Akira Kurosawa 
Writer Keinosuke Uekusa, Cinematography  Asakazu Nakai, Music Tadashi Hattori
Isao Numazaki, Chieko Nakakita

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Postwar Kurosawa: No Regrets for Our Youth

Setsuko Hara in No Regrets for Our Youth

No Regrets for Our Youth (わが青春に悔なし)

1946, Toho
Prod. Tetsuji Matsuzaki
Dir. Akira Kurosawa 
Writer Eijiro Hisaita, Cinematography  Asakazu Nakai, Music Tadashi Hattori
Susumu Fujita, Setsuko Hara, Denjiro Okochi,

In 1946, the year "No Regrets for Our Youth" was released, two significant events took place in connection with the incident depicted in the film, "Kyoto University Case (Takigawa Incident)". 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Postwar Kurosawa

Out there, in print, or on internet or whatever, there are numerous reviews, writings, essays and books on Kurosawa's films. Many of them are by professional writers and critics and are well-researched, very thought-provoking. So what else to be added? If I were to write about his masterpieces, will readers get something new or interesting?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On

The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (1987)
Dir. Kazuo Hara

If you have never seen this film, I strongly advise you not to read this post. Also, I strongly recommend to see this film. Without acquiring any information regarding its content. Not because it will diminish the shocking effect of this film (it won't, believe me, I have seen this film more than a couple of times but it still shocks me), but because it is an experience. You will experience how the ugliness of the truth unfold.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Issue of Degradation, Part 2

Maybe some of you have migrated your collections to hard disks (HDD). You may have had a collection of DVDs and CDs but copied them on HDD, got rid of all the physical collections and are quite happy about it. An 1TB hard disk costs less than DVD box set these days and can hold hundreds of movies. Directories and folder management is much easier and faster than going through a clatter of disks. I do have some movies on HDD and find them quite useful and easy. But when it comes to trusting HDD, it's a different story.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Issue of Degradation, Part 1

Old films have scratches, moldings, tears, color fade and many other forms of deterioration. They have happened, are happening and will happen. Nitrate films are combustible and prone to catch fire easily, while acetates are prone to hydrolysis, causing 'vinegar syndrome'. Colors will fade. Sprockets may disintegrate. In many cases, no original negative has survived and only material available to us is a poorly handled dupes. Copying analogue data (images on films) always degrades the quality of the original, such as sharpness, brightness, grayscale/color balances and audio clarity. People often have said preserving the film prints and negatives is not a clever idea. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Film, digital.

When the next summer blockbusters come to the nearest cinema complex, all of them would be packed with dazzling arrays of digitally generated images. In fact, it will be extremely difficult to find a film without any digital post processing these days. If you sit through ridiculously long end credits for some of the recent Hollywood entertainment films, you will find large percentage of the personnel are involved in post production digital image processing. The total control of production process by digital technologies has made the business of movie industry more adapt to DVD and BluRays, flooding the markets with cheap disks in less than three months of theatrical release. It seems like descendants of Georges Melies are dominating the business in Cinema Complexes, Netflix and Amazon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Toho, 1957
Directed by Yasuki Chiba
Cinematography by Rokuro Nishigaki
Based on the novel by Fumiko Hayashi
Music by Akira Ifukube
Isuzu Yamada, Toshiro Mifune, Keiko Awaji

A message to Japanese readers


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", Epilogue

The original script for Ozu's "The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice" was written and submitted to Censorship Board in 1939. The script was rejected, and Shochiku had to shelve it with no prospect for the production. The story concerns the man of humble origin but hard-working and his spoiled wife from rich family. The husband is too serious and boring for her taste, so the wife goes on spending spree and expensive trips. But the husband receives the draft notice, which upsets her. She realizes that her husband is quite a remarkable person, being calm when facing such a life-turning event. They quietly enjoys the last meal of "Ochazuke (Green Tea over Rice)" the night before his joining army. The reason for the rejection was often said that "Ochazuke" is too depressing meal for a Japanese man going to the war. But it was more likely that the description of wife's decadent behavior is unacceptable even if she realizes her wrongs in the end.

Analysis of "There Was A Father", Equalization

These days, most of us use modern digital technologies, ranging from cell phones, digital camera, GPS to Internet apps like Facebook or Twitter. Digital technologies has revolutionized how we interact with information, how we communicate and how we manipulate and store the data. Anyone who has a digital camera (and many of you probably own more than one) must have tinkered with image processing tools. Some of you did enhancement or text insert with one of those bundled software. Or may have used Photoshop or GIMP to give it more professional look. In any case, the processing techniques once limited to professional circles are now available to us with a few clicks.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", Bright/dark sequences

Bright sequences in "There Was A Father" are;

The field trip in Hakone, Scene 0397, B=0.4403
The father and the son visiting the castle ruin, Scene 0982, B=0.4372
The father and the son fishing in the river, Scene 1401, B=0.4731
The building of the father's office, Scene 2009, B=0.4114
Schoolboys sitting on the bridge, Scene 2436, B=0.4445
The father's last words, Scene 4764, B=0.3914

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", Grayscales

You are the commander in the war zone. Across the valley, the large troop of enemy awaits. You are waiting for the reinforcements, but there is no word from HQ. Then, a wounded messenger arrives with a COPY of the message from HQ. He says the original was destroyed by the fire, but insists that he copied MOST of it. The message reads you should start the frontal attack next morning. Don't worry, the reinforcement will come and air strikes will assist you. But, the massage has lost many words in the course of duplication, smeared with blood, and some of the sentences are incoherent. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", 01:18:00 - End

There Was A Father, Scene 4971

When someone turns away, with his/her back to you, without a word, you might find it difficult to reconnect with that person. Even if it is not a hostile gesture, just an awkward lapse in conversation or meeting, you have to search for effective, proper words to recapture the person's attention. Then, it is all the more difficult if the person is shutting down all the external interaction, retreating into the personal void.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", 01:12:00 - 01:17:59

There Was A Father, Scene 4614

The climax of the film is staged at the father's house. The separation of the father and the son, the loss of their own house and the long arc of their sojourn finally land on the domestic scene however temporary. Through most of their lives, privacy has been a luxury. Here, they have the space of their own where they can discuss their private matters in more joyous note. But, alas, it's only for a brief moment.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", 01:06:00 - 01:11:59

There Was A Father, Scene 4077
Masahiro Shinoda once worked under Ozu as an assistant director (Tokyo Boshoku). During the shooting, there was a sitting cushion placed on the tatami floor in the set, which was never used by any of the characters in the scene. He asked Ozu what was the meaning of that cushion. Ozu invited Shinoda to the view finder of the camera. "What do you see?", he asked. There were lines and lines of tatami edge (hen) covering the lower half of the frame. Ozu did not like the tatami edges invading his composition and the cushion was placed to conceal them.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", 01:00:00 - 01:05:59

There Was A Father, Scene 3561

"Another problem (in cinema direction) is that people stand up and sit down. In western-style rooms, this is not as difficult, since the posture of the person is fairly consistent throughout the movement. But it is problematic in Japanese-style rooms. First of all, when the person stands up (from sitting position on tatami), the center of gravity (of the body) translates in a complex fashion. Then, the vertical size is doubled. But the screen would not be elongated in the vertical axis accordingly."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", 00:54:00 - 00:59:59

There Was A Father, Scene 3451, The only son and the brother of Toda family

In prewar/wartime Japan, and postwar Japan to some extent, the clothes, especially women's, convey various implications as to the social/cultural roles, status and psychology of the character. This implication is clearly evident in Ozu's films. In Ozu's prewar, wartime films, majority of female characters wear kimonos, while male characters are dominantly in western clothes. However, after the war, the (young) female characters are completely converted to the western dress, as can be evidenced by "Late Spring". Noting that "Late Spring" and "There Was A Father" or "Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family" are only less than ten years apart, it is all the more surprising. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", 00:48:00 - 00:53:59

There Was A Father, Scene 3115

The father and the son visit the small hot-spring resort to spend a weekend.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", 00:42:00 - 00:47:59

There Was A Father, Scene 2669

Shohei Imamura, a very prominent Japanese film director (Pigs and Battleships, The Ballad of Narayama, The Eel), was once Ozu's assistant. He immensely hated Ozu's style of film direction and asked to be relieved from the position. To him, Ozu had always picked the worst take out of tens of retakes. Ozu's endless retake was infamous in the studio, as he kept saying no until actors and actresses were so exhausted that their uniqueness were stripped off. Imamura found nothing to be learned from Ozu's direction. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", 00:36:00 - 00:41:59

There Was A Father, Scene 2420

A visit to Hirata's home is another example of two-room staging coupled with a small room in the back. This scene echoes the earlier scene at Horikawa's home when they discussed about Horikawa's decision to resign his position. While the earlier scene opened with a troubled expression on Hirata's face, here we have the more jovial smile on his face. Hirata is also a widower, but lives with his daughter (Nami) and young son (Seiichi). The contrast with Horikawa's father-son relationship is revealing. They are living together, they have a home of their own, and they have their own privacy. Especially the privacy is important, as can be evidenced by the tone, delivery and vocabulary of Nami's speech in privacy (in a small room in the back) and in public (in front of Horikawa). The only instance we see this kind of intimacy as a family in Horikawa's is their exchange in the first scene of the film, at their own home.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", 00:30:00 - 00:35:59

There Was A Father, Scene 1911
The space of two neighboring rooms with fusuma in between is the most effectively utilized in this section. Here, the son listened to his father's decision without any utterance of protest, but his despair and disappointment is apparent visually. The next room has been a void up until this point, then the son moves to the room and sits on tatami quietly, his back toward his father. The distance here is only a few meters in reality, but we feel it more distant than it actually is.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", 00:24:00 - 00:29:59

There Was A Father, Scene 1606
Sometimes, we find some illogical coincidence among trivial matters in our daily life. If you see the old lady from the next block with her dog in the morning, it's a bad omen for the day, for example. But if you see a black cat living the next door before you start the car, you will be okey for the day. Maybe the collage kid in the coffee shop signals the bad weather in the afternoon, or something else. No logical connection. It's just a stupid coincidence you happened to notice. If you take a statistics for such matters, it's probably not even close to find correlation. You just imagine manufactured serendipity as a bit real. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", 00:18:00 - 00:23:59

There Was A Father, Scene 1089
Sessho (殺生)  Taking of the Life

One of the Five Precepts in Bhuddism is not to take life. This "taking of life" is called "sessho" in Japanese. During the conversation with the priest, Horikawa says "It is worrisome that he likes sessho," referring to his son going out to catch dragonflies. Not troubled so much, just the remark. The priest replies, "Oh, kids are like that". Later, at night, the father and the son are talking about the plan of fishing the next day. The priest, while working on the mill, says "Don't mind me. I already gave them last rites. But these fishes (Haya, Japanese Dace) are quite wily..."

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