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Feature Four Frames

Manhood and political nostalgia in Yukio Mishima’s Yukoku

On 25 November 1970, the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima (1925-1970) committed seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment; in the Western world better known as hara-kiri) after a failed coup d’état. Together with four young members of the Tatenokai (Shield Society), the private militia he had founded in 1968, Mishima had entered and occupied the headquarters of […]

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Feature Four Frames

Hell is in Oneself: Nobuo Nakagawa’s Jigoku

Nobuo Nakagawa’s Jigoku (Japan, 1960) starts with shots of a coffin in a crematorium and of flames filling the whole screen while horrifying screams are heard from the off. The title in blood-red kanji is followed by the credits next to images of half-naked women in lascivious poses accompanied by a melodious jazz tune. This […]

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Feature Four Frames

Youth in crisis: Akihiko Shiota’s Harmful Insect

White feathers falling from the ceiling like snowflakes, the camera revealing a heap of them on the furniture and, after a lateral movement, a woman who starts cutting her wrist with a small knife – this is the opening sequence of Harmful Insect (Gaichu, Japan, 2002). Filmed in total silence, the sequence combines lyricism and […]

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Feature Four Frames

Desire and Moral Boundaries: Keisuke Kinoshita’s Wedding Ring

In Keisuke Kinoshita’s Wedding Ring (Konyaku yubiwa, Japan, 1950), Noriko Kuki (Kinuyo Tanaka) finds herself on the threshold of adultery when she falls in love with the young medical intern Ema (Toshiro Mifune), who has been assigned to her husband Michio (Jukichi Uno), suffering from tuberculosis. The first encounter between Noriko and Ema takes place […]

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Feature Four Frames

Heat as a psychological and aesthetic motif: Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog

Right from his directorial debut Sanshiro Sugata (Sugata Sanshiro, 1943), climate phenomena played an essential role in the films of Akira Kurosawa. In Sanshiro Sugata, for example, it is the wind blowing through the pampas grass, reinforcing the tension in the climactic fight scene between Sanshiro and his rival Higaki. In Kurosawa’s films, human drama […]

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Director Debut Feature

Becoming Akira Kurosawa: Sanshiro Sugata

In a new article series, writers select and discuss great director debuts to explore the possible origins of recurring themes or stylistic approaches that often help to define the uniqueness of these one-of-a-kind filmmakers.

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Feature

A journey into silence in François Rotger’s The Passenger

Following the young yakuza Kohji (Yusuke Iseya) from Japan to Canada, the action of François Rotger’s The Passenger (2005) takes place on two continents. Kohji, who has fallen out of favour with his mentor Naoki Sando (Yosuke Natsuki) because the latter surprised him in bed with his daughter Hiroko (Kumi Kaneko), is given a chance […]

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Feature

Rebirth and reconciliation in Kon Ichikawa’s The Burmese Harp

After the capitulation of the Empire of Japan on 15 August 1945, Private Mizushima (Shoji Yasui) does not join the rest of his former unit in a British prisoner-of-war-camp in the Burmese countryside but becomes a Buddhist monk. The story of the young soldier who decides to stay in Burma after the war in order […]

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Feature

Journey Into the Human Heart: Takeshi Kitano’s Kikujiro

Kikujiro (Kikujiro no natsu, Japan, 1999) is a film about a boy – 9-year-old Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) – who leaves Tokyo in the summer holidays to go in search of his mother, who abandoned him years ago. Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano), the husband of one of his grandmother’s friends, agrees to accompany him on the journey […]