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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 […]

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Sacrifice and Responsibility in Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low

In Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low (Tengoku to jigoku, Japan, 1963), a bungled kidnapping leads to the protagonist’s deep crisis of conscience. Wealthy Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune) has to decide whether or not to pay the ransom demanded by a kidnapper who intended to abduct Gondo’s son but has taken his chauffeur’s son by mistake. […]

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The portrayal of women in Kinuyo Tanaka’s Love Under the Crucifix and Girls of the Night

“It is sad to be a woman,” says the protagonist Ogin (Ineko Arima) in Kinuyo Tanaka’s Love Under the Crucifix (Ogin-sama, Japan, 1962) while watching a woman on her way to the execution site. The woman has refused to be the concubine of Hideyoshi, Japan’s ruler in the late sixteenth century, which is the historical […]

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Satire as social criticism: Nagisa Oshima’s Three Resurrected Drunkards

Three Resurrected Drunkards (Kaette kita yopparai, 1968) starts with a long sequence showing three young men enjoying themselves on a deserted sandy beach one sunny day. Their haircuts and clothes indicate that they belong to the beat generation, and their beige jackets are reminiscent of those worn by The Beatles for their concert at Shea […]

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A manhunt in a period film: Hideo Gosha’s Bandits vs. Samurai Squadron

The recent discovery of Bandits vs. Samurai Squadron (Kumokiri Nizaemon, 1978), a film that I had never seen before, has added a new work to my stock of movies for my research on Japanese film in general and on Gosha’s oeuvre in particular. Not as well known as Goyokin (1969) or Hitokiri (1969), Bandits vs. […]

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A family with a dinner table: Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s Still Walking

Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s Still Walking (Aruitemi aruitemo, 2008) starts with two women preparing a meal, the older woman giving advice to the younger one. This first long sequence sets the tone of the film and signals the filmmaker’s emphasis on everyday life, which is supported by the narrative and by other aesthetic means. Depicting twenty-four hours […]

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Feature Music & Film

Self-Isolation Soundtrack: The Music of Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai, 1954) is one of those rich and complex films that one never tires of watching over and over again. Much has been written about Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, but the emphasis has rarely been on music. This article is my very humble attempt to have a closer look at Fumio Hayasaka’s […]

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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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Feature Lost Classic

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 […]