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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 […]

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Feature Lost Classic

The taste of humanity: Tampopo

At the core of Juzo Itami’s Tampopo (1985) is the ambition of the central character, Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto), to produce in her small ramen noodle shop the best ramen (Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a broth) in Tokyo. Truck driver Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and four other men help the widow to turn her business around. […]

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Feature Thousand Words

The she-panther and the yakuza in Drunken Angel

Drunken Angel (Yoidore tenshi, 1948) is Akira Kurosawa’s first film in which music, used at both a diegetic and non-diegetic level, plays an eminent structural role. One key scene is set in “Club Number 1,” a dance hall in the slum in which the action takes place. In this scene, the jazz song “Jungle Boogie” […]

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Social criticism and the inner journey in Battle Royale

In one of the first sequences of Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale (Batoru rowaiaru, 2000), a group of boisterous pupils on a bus trip to the countryside arrive at a tunnel entrance: an appropriate place to anticipate the horror which awaits them when they emerge from the darkness at the other end. Stunned by gas, they […]

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Lost Classic Reviews Thousand Words

Lost Classic: Discover this generation-spanning drama about old age in the modern world

An angry-looking man hastily leaves a shabby house in the middle of nowhere, repeatedly throwing his walking stick to the floor. Each time, a young woman picks it up. The man is Tadao, the elderly protagonist of Haru’s Journey, played by the great Tatsuya Nakadai. The woman is Haru, his grand-daughter, sublimely interpreted by Eri Tokunaga. […]

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Feature Thousand Words

How The Human Condition ignited my passion for Japanese cinema

I began 2016 by watching a lot of Masaki Kobayashi. It was a year that year marked both the centenary of his birth, and the 20th anniversary of his death. My aim was to deepen my knowledge of his work, and to pay homage to a filmmaker I greatly admire by writing articles in which […]

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Feature Thousand Words

Discover this moody Japanese film about compassion within a marginalised society

Easy Tavern is an infamous inn on the edge of town, in the wetlands of the Fukagawa. The inn’s regulars are petty crooks and smugglers. Sadashichi, one of the smugglers, not only looks dangerous: he demonstrates his ferocity by killing a police officer. Yet it’s clear from the beginning that the director’s sympathies lie with […]

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How Black River perfectly captures the cultural corruption of post-war Japan

Kobayashi’s vitriolic portrayal of a society dominated by crime and corruption.

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Feature Thousand Words

Thousand Words: discover Odd Obsession, a Japanese tale of failure and desire

Odd Obsession is a film about ageing, manipulation and sexual games.