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

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

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Thousand Words: Evil Behind the Mask of Respectability (The Bad Sleep Well, 1960)

The Bad Sleep Well (Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru), a critical portrayal of postwar corporate Japan as a breeding ground for corruption, targets the strong connections between the economy, politics and crime. As a tale of revenge, it recalls Hamlet, but it also echoes the Japanese penchant for vengeance as a dramatic motif. The famous […]

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Thousand Words: How to be a Human Being (Ikiru, 1952)

The first shot in Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru shows an X-ray. A voiceover reveals that this is the stomach of Watanabe, the film’s central figure, who is terminally ill with stomach cancer. An ordinary man suddenly confronted with death and the futility of his existence, he is desperately trying to find a meaning in life. Kurosawa […]

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Thousand Words: Affirming Human Dignity (Samurai Rebellion, 1967)

Masaki Kobayashi’s whole oeuvre is marked by his lifelong preoccupation with the complex relationship between the individual and society, the longing for freedom, and the struggle against oppression. Both as a member of the Japanese Imperial Army (the pacifist Kobayashi was posted to Manchuria during World War II) and as an artist, the filmmaker resisted […]

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Thousand Words: Inner Torments and Social Disease (The Quiet Duel, 1949)

In the long opening sequence of Akira Kurosawa’s The Quiet Duel (Shizukanaru kettō), which takes place in 1944 in one of the Southeast Asian countries occupied by the Japanese, a man in a white coat is talking to another man who, dozing, leans against the wall behind them. The second man, his face hidden behind […]