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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

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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Feature

The inner chaos of adolescent life: Sion Sono’s Love Exposure

In Sion Sono’s Love Exposure (Ai no mukidashi, 2008), 17-year-old Yu (Takahiro Nishijima) struggles with his sexual awakening. Sono turns the basic “boy meets girl” plot into a narratively and aesthetically rich film in which Yu encounters violence and madness but also discovers love and responsibility. Sono’s four-hour film explores what it means to be young. […]

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Feature

The escape motif in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992), set in 1881, is a complex film about violence in American history and, by extension, in present-day America. It also presents multifaceted reflections on human nature and the construction of legends. William Munny (Eastwood), a former gunfighter and notorious killer, is now a pig farmer in Kansas. In the opening credits […]

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Feature Four Frames

War as absurdity: Kihachi Okamoto’s Desperado Outpost

Desperado Outpost (Dokuritsu gurentai, Japan, 1959) starts with shots of a man on horseback in a landscape reminiscent of a Western. This hero is Japanese, and the action is set in the wide-open spaces of the Manchurian steppe in the summer of 1945 near the end of the Sino-Japanese War. Okamoto’s approach to the war […]

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Feature Four Frames

Sociopolitical reality as horror: Joon-ho Bong’s The Host

The Host (Gwoemul, South Korea, 2006) starts with gloomy images in a morgue at an American military base in South Korea. Evil is predicted when a pathologist orders his assistant to dump a large amount of formaldehyde in a drain at the base. A few years later, a monstrous creature emerges from the River Han […]

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Double Bill Feature

Double Bill: Happiness & Life During Wartime

In Happiness (1998), the ever-smiling Trish (Cynthia Stevenson), in her neat kitchen, is strongly reminiscent of the female ideal as propagated in American films and commercials of the 1950s and 1960s. However, her affected demeanour und put-on optimism cannot hide the illusion behind the image of the idyllic home that is associated with the American […]

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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 […]

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Feature

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 […]