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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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Feature

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 […]

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Double Bill Feature

Double Bill: Seven Samurai & 13 Assassins

When I was informed about this month’s “double feature” topic, I spontaneously decided to write about Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai, 1954) and Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins (Jusan-nin no shikaku, 2010). On rethinking the matter, I quickly became discouraged. Is it possible to deal in one short article with a masterpiece such as […]

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Feature

Searching for salvation: Kei Kumai’s Deep River

Kei Kumai’s Deep River (Fukai Kawa, Japan, 1995) starts with images of a Hindu temple in ruins and shots of the countryside in India through which a bus is passing. The camera eventually hones in on the group of Japanese tourists inside the vehicle, picking out in a succession of close-ups the film’s three main […]

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Feature Thousand Words

Visual Poetry: Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood

Inspired by William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Akira Kurosawa created, with Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-jo, Japan, 1957), visual poetry: in black and white, light and shade, movement and immobility. Kurosawa does not try to put Shakespearean English into Japanese. Instead, image and rhythm replace words, pointing to the visual nature of Shakespeare’s language. In this way, Kurosawa, […]

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Feature Lost Classic

Flowers of evil in Cold War Japan: Masahiro Shinoda’s Pale Flower

Pale Flower (Kawaita hana, 1964), set in the yakuza milieu, questions the codes of Japanese gangsters and subverts the gangster codes of the films that flooded the Japanese film market in the early 1960s. It deals with obsessive love but replaces the carnal element with gambling. Shinoda’s film harks back to Charles Baudelaire’s volume of poetry, Les Fleurs du Mal (The […]

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Feature Lost Classic

The long way back to normality: Shohei Imamura’s The Eel

After serving eight years in prison for the murder of his wife, Takuro Yamashita (Koji Yakusho) is released on probation and opens a barber shop in the home town of his parole officer, an elderly Buddhist priest (Fujio Tokita). Shohei Imamura’s The Eel (Unagi, 1997) depicts the slow return to normality of the former salaryman […]

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Feature Lost Classic

Human fragility: Sang-il Lee’s Unforgiven

Sang-il Lee’s Unforgiven (Yurusarezaru mono, 2013) bears many similarities with Clint Eastwood’s eponymous masterpiece from 1992. The storyline and narrative details as well as the characters and the frontier setting of Lee’s remake parallel Eastwood’s Western. This also applies to the insistence on shadows and half-shadows in the interior shots and the symbolic use of […]