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A family in crisis: Masahiro Kobayashi’s Lear on the Shore

A beach at the seaside is the main location in Masahiro Kobayashi’s Lear on the Shore (Umibe no Ria, 2017) and the key setting for a number of dramatic encounters. The former actor Chokitsu Kuwabatake (Tatsuya Nakadai), dressed in pyjamas and a long woollen coat and pulling a suitcase behind him, walks along the beach […]

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Badlands and the Taxonomy of Escape

“The world was like a faraway planet to which I could never return” – ​Holly, Badlands Terrence Malick’s directorial debut ​Badlands (1973)​ is in many respects a tale of escapism writ large over a collection of isolated interior and exterior landscapes. Our protagonists seek to construct their own mythologies and rewrite their own histories, with […]

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The escape motif in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992), set in 1881, is a complex film about violence in American history and, by extension, in present-day America. It also presents multifaceted reflections on human nature and the construction of legends. William Munny (Eastwood), a former gunfighter and notorious killer, is now a pig farmer in Kansas. In the opening credits […]

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Multiple identities in Lola and Bilidikid

In the first sequence of Kutlug Ataman’s Lola and Bilidikid (Lola und Bilidikid, Germany, 1999), a young man is walking in a park at night. Murat (Baki Davrak) – an expression of anxiety on his face, his body tense – has ventured into the darkness. The park is the huge Tiergarten in the middle of […]

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Dream as reality, reality as dream: Kei Shichiri’s Once Upon a Dream

Watching Kei Shichiri’s Once Upon a Dream (Nemuri-hime, 2007/2016 – a remastered version with surround sound was released in 2016) in May 2020, at a time of isolation imposed by measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19, creates a strong sensation of both strangeness and familiarity. Shots of deserted streets and trains without passengers […]

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Toshiro Mifune in Mexico: Ismael Rodriguez’s Ánimas Trujano

Ánimas Trujano (Mexico, 1962) starts as a documentary film with images of a festival which the villagers in the Mexican State of Oaxaca are celebrating in honour of their patron saint. A voice-over narrator explains the role of the mayordomo, a respected member of the community who is elected to organize the various religious and […]

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Features Four Frames Lost Classics

The beauty of free movement: Akira Kurosawa’s Uma no uta

In his autobiography, Something Like an Autobiography, Akira Kurosawa mentions that since his youth he had loved horses and had spent whole afternoons at the hippodrome in Meguro. One of his screenplays written in the early 1940s was called Jajauma monogatari (The Story of a Bad Horse). This project was never realized, but Uma no […]

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Four Frames: The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)

MATTHEW 25, 6: And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman (2019), his final – we think? – go round the mobster realm and that detailed world and times he knows so well is peopled by … well, let’s just say “colourful” characters. […]

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Fighting Social Ills: Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard

In Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard (Akahige, 1965), Dr. Niide (Toshiro Mifune), called “Red Beard”, offers medical treatment cheaply or for free in Edo (as Tokyo was formerly called) in the first half of the 19th century. The nickname Red Beard hints at “red medicine” (komo i gaku), designating the treatment practised by the Dutch (the […]