Japan, Ancient And Modern

12th November 1971, Japan, Ancient & Modern ‘Kensington Post’ page 40


[Incredible that this was considered an acceptable article heading by a newspaper in 1971]

FOR MOST people, a Japanese film means a samurai epic. But the range of Japanese film-making has been as broad as that of any other country, as the Electric Cinema Club, Portobello Road, sets out to show in an all-night show – JAPAN, ANCIENT AND MODERN – this Friday and Saturday at 11.30 p.m.

Four very different treatments from four very different film-makers make up this marathon programme, which last until roughly 6.30 a.m.

AN ACTOR’S REVENGE (directed by Kon Ichikawa, 1963) is a bizarre tale of murder and revenge, with a female impersonator as its hero(ine). Set in the late 1830s, it is the story of an actor of the Kabuki Theatre who is determined to have his revenge on the three men who drove his parents to suicide.

Black humour

Ichikawa is a master of visual composition and his use of colour and the ‘scope screen is sometimes breathtaking.

YOJIMBO (Akira Kurosawa, 1961) is one of the very best of the Kurosawa/Toshiro Mifune epics. From the first shots of a deserted village to the final showdown, the screen is filled with a wealth of action and period detail, with a good deal of black humour on top.

Describing the film as an “Eastern Western”, critic summarised its morality as: “Humanity, drop dead”.

UGESSU MONOGATARI (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953) is a tale of ghosts, spirits and the supernatural.

Until his death in 1956, Mizoguchi was the great veteran of the Japanese cinema, with some 87 films to his credit. His speciality was the creation of atmosphere: the place, the period, the environment which conditioned the lives of his characters.

It is generally agreed that UGESTU MONOGATARI was his masterpiece.

HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR (Main Resnais. 1959) is not, of course, really a Japanese film, but it is one with great relevance to modern Japan.

Resnais’ preoccupation with time and memory has never better been expressed than in this story of a French woman and a Japanese architect, and the past which haunts both of them.