Eclipse Series 7: Postwar Kurosawa

Discuss DVDs released in the Eclipse and Essential Art House lines and the films on them.
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HerrSchreck
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#126 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Apr 27, 2008 10:40 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:I don't know what your problem is jimaku.

Richie has acknowledged that he did a lot of stereotyping in his earlier work -- things that he doesn't really agree with anymore. He has learned a lot since the 1950s -- and lots more study has also been done by others since then.

What makes _you_ think that he _still_ considers Japanese actors naturally hammy? You might want to look at his more recent work and see if this is one of the notions he carries over from 1959 into the present. I don't think you will find any comments remotely like this in his most recent work.
Mike you hafta admit your brush off of Richies comments was pretty ad hoc and flippant. I thought it was so over the top I just let it drop initially because I figured the weakness of your position speaks for itself: "You provide proof to substantiate your argument-- but your expert was young when he wrote it whereas I myself am older so WHOOOMPF!". The fact is that Richie was writing within the approximate era of the films within "Postwar Kurosawa", so those are very very relevant comments, in our discussion here. Richie was there living the general attitudes as they unfolded. There is no "truth" viz "hammines" (what could be more absurd?). The fact is that the perception exists. And did exist when those films were made (it still does today because of a certain growling, chin down, barking, style of rigid Japanase masculinity). And thats basically all that needs to be said.

You want us to prove that he HASNT changed his mind from his previous view, whereas in reality, you have written proof from the mans mouth right in front of you-- if you want to nullify the statements of the crown prince of anglo-oriental-cinephiles, the onus is on YOU to prove that the man has undergone a shift in his attitude. Otherwise an acedemics' former statement stands.

Is every classic artwork from an artists most vigorous years suspect to you because of this?

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#127 Post by Jimaku » Sun Apr 27, 2008 10:47 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:If you want to treat what Richie and Anderson wrote in 1959 as gospel, be my guest. Richie himself does not. (I don't know what Anderson's attitude is). I prefer to see it as an intriguing, tentative "first look" at an area Americans knew nothing about (and would largely continue to ignore for at least a couple more decades).

Yes, I have seen "run of the mill" Japanese films (some older ones and more newer ones) -- and I don't see that Japanese performers in these are any more or less hammy (on average) than in comparable American films.

So -- just how many Japanese films of the 20s through 50s have YOU seen?
Where did I ever say it was to be treated as gospel? I've said repeatedly that you have every right to disagree with what's written there--I disagree with much of it myself. There are also numerous errors of a purely factual nature in the book, and those should of course be pointed out. But it is, again, lazy and condescending simply to say "That book was written a long time ago when Americans didn't know anything" and expect that to suffice for you to dismiss any aspect of the book you wish.

For what it's worth, I've seen a sizable portion of what little remains of prewar Japanese cinema and a fair chunk of the much larger extant corpus of postwar films. I also speak and read Japanese fluently and can follow films that haven't been subtitled. None of that, however, has anything to do with my point of contention, which is that that kind of casual dismissal just doesn't fly.

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#128 Post by Steven H » Sun Apr 27, 2008 11:12 pm

(I'm not really trying to follow the back and forth here... so these comments maybe be out of place by the time I post them!)

I can kind of understand Richie's comment from seeing a lot of the popular films of that era (how many Toei Hibari/Wakayama/Nakamura period films can one handle in one sitting? I'd like to know) but I don't find it condescending to say, in retrospect, that he was probably carrying a lot of baggage of his own, and despite his proximity I think we can still debate the merits of his arguments without constantly qualifying ourselves. The Japanese Film, while an utterly *indispensable* text contains many overstatements (Shimizu "over-indulgent"? Black River too "melodramatic"?) that seem bizarre to us after a few decades of hindsight not to mention a number of acknowledged factual inaccuracies.

The comment on acting seems a half-truth at best, and unsatisfactory for me at least from an aesthetic point of view. One can imagine Richie's earnest interest in western acting theories (evident in his subtle directing turn in Boy With Cat) trumping Japanese audiences' appreciation for heavily stylized performances. We could also fault him for his dismissal of Yamamoto and Imai as "leftist" and um... *questionable* remarks such as the Japanese are "apolitical" and "intellectually dishonest". However, I do find *a lot* of value in his insight (what student of classic Japanese film doesn't?), but I don't see Michael's statement that some sociological perspective is necessary as condescending or inappropriate (though we may quibble over degree).

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#129 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Apr 27, 2008 11:22 pm

It appears that you totally misunderstood what I said. I did NOT say that Richie and Anderson knew nothing. I said that, at the time they wrote, their American audience knew nothing about Japanese movies. And, despite their best efforts, their book did not create enough interest to generate any serious academic follow-up (this would come only decades later).

I also would say that Richie and Anderson, as "pioneers" starting from scratch necessarily had to do plenty of shooting from the hip. They also did not have the ability to re-watch films easily -- it would largely have been a matter of catch as catch can. Moreover, many older films would have been inaccessible then (for example most of Naruse's older films had no exhibition prints).

If one looks at the films of Shimazu, Uchida, Shimizu, Gosho, Ozu, Naruse, Mizoguchi, Yoshimura, Yamanaka et al -- one does not see any undue preponderance of hammy acting, rather one sees virtually none. It is not clear how many of the older films of these directors Anderson and Richie actually were able to see in the late 40s and 50s. Unfortunately, they often do not distinguish between films they actually saw and films (some already long lost) that they simply read about. Probably many of these older films remained essentially unavailable until the home video era -- and many more remained unavailable until even more recently.

The fact that there were tons of low-grade films made during the 20s through 50s in Japan (as many as in America) and that there may have been tons of "hammy" actors involved in making these tells us next to nothing about whether Japanese actors were, per se, hammier than American ones at a comparable professional level. If you have seen many dozens (or a few hundreds) of films made by the directors I mentioned above -- and consider the acting in these typically hammy, then you have a far different definition of hammy than I do.

Shochiku Films worked hard to inculcate naturalistic performance practices from the time of its creation in the early 20s -- and its norms spread to Nikkatsu (through Yamanaka) and to PCL/Toho through Naruse (and other Shochiku alumni). The low-grade films of these companies are not available (even if they exist), but the works of their more important directors simply show no natural propensity for Japanese actors to perform in a hammy fashion.

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#130 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Apr 27, 2008 11:32 pm

I think we're arguing at cross ends here. As the guy who started this aspect of this discussion, let me clarify why I brought it up (and there's no reason for this to escalate, which is why I just let it drop as I consider myself among friends here):

Godfrey thought Mifune was being a ham in Scandal. I said (while simultaneously admitting I knew nothing about Godfreys intake of Japanese film) it may be that Godfrey sees very little Japanese film, and therefore may see Japanese acting as hammy. I think there is a kind of acting resident in the kinds of Japanese films we talk about around here that very much does read-- to a novice westerner-- as hammy. Particularly a certain kind of Japanese manly man, who oftentimes projects himself in a way which is pure pork.

The simple assertion is that this is a commonly held opinion in the west, (particularly among novices). All I have to do is prove that the perception exists and we're done. It's over, send everybody home. You cannot say "these perceptions dont exist because I dont happen to agree." Thats like saying this forum doesnt exist because you dont like it. It will go on existing anyhow.

Whether or not you agree with that is another story, and is a rather silly debate as there's no quantifiable measure for "hamminess". I think in reality there is a huge swath of acting styles in Japan-- of course there are-- I was mostly speaking viz these opinons regarding a stereotypical Japanese male (skewered by Hashimoto, Kobayashi, Yamanaka et al) who appear in so many celebrated films.

I could disagree with those people who say "I find silent films boring" for example, but I could not debate the fact that people feel that way. It's a fact-- the opinion exists by masses of non cinephiles. It wont go away by the simple fact of my fanaticism. And opening up a debate on "what constitutes boring" is not an excercise I'm interested in participating in.

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#131 Post by Steven H » Mon Apr 28, 2008 3:35 am

HerrSchreck wrote:You cannot say "these perceptions dont exist because I dont happen to agree." Thats like saying this forum doesnt exist because you dont like it. It will go on existing anyhow.
Schreck, I think maybe we read Michael's response to My Man Godfrey as being more harsh than they were. I don't see him shutting him down, I just see him expressing the opposite opinion (passionately, I presume). Is it possible this is where the conflagration began?

Regarding Richie's opinion, some simple searching turns up much more instances of "sentimental" and "melodramatic" in The Japanese Film than the later 100 Years of Japanese Cinema, for what it's worth (though it might have to do with a more mature usage of exaggeration, something I'll never be able to attain.)

That all being said, isn't Mifune supposed to be playing a low class, childish, but lovable, buffoon? His playful side comes off a little broad, but it balances out his dagger through the heart seriousness that his roles inevitably lead up to, I think.

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#132 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Apr 28, 2008 5:25 am

Are you talking about Mifune in Scandal or Seven Samurai?

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#133 Post by Steven H » Mon Apr 28, 2008 10:06 am

HerrSchreck wrote:Are you talking about Mifune in Scandal or Seven Samurai?
Oh, Seven Samurai. Now I see it's Scandal, right? *slaps forehead*

...who wants coffee?

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#134 Post by Jimaku » Mon Apr 28, 2008 11:23 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:It appears that you totally misunderstood what I said. I did NOT say that Richie and Anderson knew nothing. I said that, at the time they wrote, their American audience knew nothing about Japanese movies. And, despite their best efforts, their book did not create enough interest to generate any serious academic follow-up (this would come only decades later).

I also would say that Richie and Anderson, as "pioneers" starting from scratch necessarily had to do plenty of shooting from the hip. They also did not have the ability to re-watch films easily -- it would largely have been a matter of catch as catch can. Moreover, many older films would have been inaccessible then (for example most of Naruse's older films had no exhibition prints).

If one looks at the films of Shimazu, Uchida, Shimizu, Gosho, Ozu, Naruse, Mizoguchi, Yoshimura, Yamanaka et al -- one does not see any undue preponderance of hammy acting, rather one sees virtually none. It is not clear how many of the older films of these directors Anderson and Richie actually were able to see in the late 40s and 50s. Unfortunately, they often do not distinguish between films they actually saw and films (some already long lost) that they simply read about. Probably many of these older films remained essentially unavailable until the home video era -- and many more remained unavailable until even more recently.

The fact that there were tons of low-grade films made during the 20s through 50s in Japan (as many as in America) and that there may have been tons of "hammy" actors involved in making these tells us next to nothing about whether Japanese actors were, per se, hammier than American ones at a comparable professional level. If you have seen many dozens (or a few hundreds) of films made by the directors I mentioned above -- and consider the acting in these typically hammy, then you have a far different definition of hammy than I do.

Shochiku Films worked hard to inculcate naturalistic performance practices from the time of its creation in the early 20s -- and its norms spread to Nikkatsu (through Yamanaka) and to PCL/Toho through Naruse (and other Shochiku alumni). The low-grade films of these companies are not available (even if they exist), but the works of their more important directors simply show no natural propensity for Japanese actors to perform in a hammy fashion.
Well I'm glad you finally mustered an argument instead of a broad ad hominem dismissal. That's all I was asking for. Actually, you could have taken issue with Richie's assertion quite simply by pointing out the logical inconsistency at the heart of it: if the Japanese, as he argues, learn the arts of dissimulation within the family from a young age, it should follow that they would naturally be convincing actors, not obviously hammy ones.

The truth of the matter, as Schreck points out, is that there was a broad swath of acting styles in Japan, many of which (particularly the macho males and the Kabuki-inflected chambara) strike the uninitiated Westerner raised on a steady diet of naturalism as hammy and affected. Clearly there was less reason or tolerance for that sort of thing in domestic dramas.

It's worth pointing out, too, that the finished films are not always the best indicator of an actor's actual propensities. Great directors can coax decent performances even out of actors who, left to their own devices, would produce groan-worthy turns. Many of Richie's impressions came from the great amount of time he spent on actual sets in the fifties, and all the takes he saw that didn't make it to the final cut. Since very few of us have had the rare opportunity to be present at countless Japanese film sets during the fifties, I'm willing to give Richie the benefit of the doubt that there was *some* validity to his impressions at the time. I don't, however, buy into his explanation for *why* he saw what he saw.

I will say without equivocation, however, that the acting in prime-time Japanese TV dramas today is consistently awful and nowhere near the level even of run-of-the-mill American TV dramas like Law and Order. If you don't see that, I'm sorry.

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#135 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Apr 28, 2008 12:02 pm

OT -- I have yet to see any Japanese TV dramas -- though I've been debating whether to check out Summer Snow, I rather like the Korean TV shows I've seen -- but these all just happen to star BAE Doo-na, so I might be a bit biased. ;~}

Since I have long found American TV series hard to tolerate, the fact that Japanese TV series might also be problematic would not suggest there is any unique problems there.

By all reports, neither Mizoguchi nor Naruse (unlike Ozu) provided much in the way of "acting coaching". Mizoguchi might throw a fit if he didn't like how a scene went -- but gave little affirmative guidance on how the actors should act on the next take. Naruse gave guidance as to movements and blocking but apparently not other aspects of performance. If he didn't care for a take, he just called for a re-do, with no directions as to how to "act" differently. Since these two directors' films have some of the best performances in all of Japanese cinema, one has to assume the core competence of the actors they chose (or were assigned) was quite high.

A semi-related side note -- I just started S.A. Thornton's The Japanese Period Film -- and found it interesting to learn that Yamanaka left the conducting of rehearsals in films such as Kochiyama Soshun and Humanity & Paper Balloons to Chojuro Kawarasaki (who was also the lead actor of those films).. Thornton also emphasizes the importance of Yamanaka as a major influence on Kurosawa.

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#136 Post by ltfontaine » Mon Apr 28, 2008 12:39 pm

Stephen H wrote:...who wants coffee?
. . . or maybe decaf, given the needlessly overheated tenor of this exchange.
Jimaku wrote:The truth of the matter, as Schreck points out, is that there was a broad swath of acting styles in Japan, many of which (particularly the macho males and the Kabuki-inflected chambara) strike the uninitiated Westerner raised on a steady diet of naturalism as hammy and affected.
It is specifically the Kabuki-derived performance style in period films, especially associated with the tateyaku, that gives rise to overstated generalizations about expressive excesses among Japanese actors. And such perceptions are not limited to Westerners. Even a Japanese populist like Sato Tadao describes these historically influenced inflections, from a postwar perspective, as “absurd, outmoded, stylized mannerisms.” (Ironically, given the drift of this conversation, it is Kurosawa, claims Sato, who subdued the histrionics associated with acting in period films and moved toward a more realistic style of performance, at least in that particular genre.)

But apart from the specific elements of performance in Japanese period dramas derived from Kabuki, is there really a credible case to be made that acting in Japanese films is, or was, more “hammy” than in other national cinemas? Hammy examples are too plentiful in films worldwide during virtually every historical period to argue this point, no?

Jimaku, if you’re going to invoke American television as a rebuke to bad, unsubtle acting, well, good luck to you. I’m off to eat lunch and watch Unbeatable Banzuke.

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#137 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Apr 28, 2008 12:49 pm

ltfontaine wrote:Ironically, given the drift of this conversation, it is Kurosawa, claims Sato, who subdued the histrionics associated with acting in period films and moved toward a more realistic style of performance, at least in that particular genre.
Interesting that Sato would (seem to) write Yamanaka out of the history of period films -- when Yamanaka's films featured even more realistic acting than most of Kurosawa's.

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#138 Post by ltfontaine » Mon Apr 28, 2008 1:19 pm

True, as the acting in Yamanaka's surviving films all transcend the Kabuki model, predating Rashomon by a decade and a half. Since it is Rashomon that Sato references as the tide-turning film in this regard, perhaps he means to indicate that, by virtue of its prominence, the film altered viewing expectations thereafter.

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#139 Post by Jimaku » Mon Apr 28, 2008 1:33 pm

ltfontaine wrote:But apart from the specific elements of performance in Japanese period dramas derived from Kabuki, is there really a credible case to be made that acting in Japanese films is, or was, more “hammy” than in other national cinemas? Hammy examples are too plentiful in films worldwide during virtually every historical period to argue this point, no?
First of all, I don't think stylized acting per se is necessarily a bad thing as long as it's appropriate to the aesthetic aims of the work. The insistence on realism and naturalism is very much a fetish particular to the West. Even in the West it's a fairly recent ideology--I'm sure the acting of Shakespeare's time and place would probably strike us all today as pompous and absurd. So clearly there are many cultural and historical dimensions to any such appraisal of good and bad, natural and unnatural acting.

Donald Richie in 1959 was already quite well versed in the cinemas not only of Japan but of many of the film-producing countries of the world. He sat through countless Japanese productions, take after take, and apparently much of the acting he saw struck him as appreciably more hammy (i.e., inappropriate to the aesthetic intent of the film) than some baseline derived from his aggregated experience as a seasoned moviegoer of the year 1959. Does that prove anything? Of course not. It's one man's subjective impression, and one that can be contested from any number of different angles. But can it simply be dismissed out of hand as the hallucination of some fuddy-duddy who was living in a backward age? I don't believe so, because I believe that lived experience (and what a rich experience it was) deserves a fair hearing. Not unquestioning credulity, but at least a fair hearing. As Schreck pointed out, the very existence of that perception has some kind of significance, though it says nothing about the validity of the conclusions based on that perception.

In truth, though, the question doesn't interest me in the least. What sticks in my craw is the casual and widespread backhanding of the man who has done more than any other individual to bring Japanese film the international recognition it deserves--hence the overheated tenor of my response.

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#140 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Apr 28, 2008 1:45 pm

Jimaku wrote:Donald Richie in 1959 was already quite well versed in the cinemas not only of Japan but of many of the film-producing countries of the world. He sat through countless Japanese productions, take after take, and apparently much of the acting he saw struck him as appreciably more hammy (i.e., inappropriate to the aesthetic intent of the film) than some baseline derived from his aggregated experience as a seasoned moviegoer of the year 1959. Does that prove anything? Of course not. It's one man's subjective impression, and one that can be contested from any number of different angles. But can it simply be dismissed out of hand as the hallucination of some fuddy-duddy who was living in a backward age? I don't believe so, because I believe that lived experience (and what a rich experience it was) deserves a fair hearing. Not unquestioning credulity, but at least a fair hearing. As Schreck pointed out, the very existence of that perception has some kind of significance, though it says nothing about the validity of the conclusions based on that perception.
Everyone else has been happy to drop the Donald Richie argument and move on to more interesting, less peevish, discussion. Mind following the crowd on this one?

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#141 Post by ltfontaine » Mon Apr 28, 2008 1:56 pm

Actually, no one has said anything remotely negative about Donald Richie, only taken issue with something he wrote half a century ago. I think the consensus here is that we all find Richie, to use Michael’s word, “admirable.” Just wanted to make that clear.

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#142 Post by colinr0380 » Tue May 06, 2008 6:18 pm


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#143 Post by Murasaki53 » Sun Jun 15, 2008 4:39 am

Watched No Regrets... last night and was blown away by it. I never imagined that Setsuko Hara could be so coquettish when playing a role (as she is in the early parts of this movie). To be honest, I've also never thought of her as being especially attractive but her charms were working on me as well as those Kyoto University guys.

There are some extraordinary moments, chief amongst which was the one where she decides to stop being a 'night owl' and trudges off to the rice fields with Kurosawa capturing the expressions and derision of the peasants she passes.

Not being familiar with the historical background to the story, I'd been expecting the movie to build up to some kind of courtroom drama so the unexpected direction Kurosawa takes us in for those last 30 minutes really put the film onto a different level. Well, for me at least.

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#144 Post by adeeze » Fri Aug 08, 2008 11:45 am

No Regrets For Our Youth was my favorite film out of the eclipse package, and it was the first I had watched. I was intrigued by One Wonderful Sunday, and I found I Live In Fear interesting, but overall was a bit dissapointed. I guess it was the hype, maybe it deserves another viewing.
The Idiot was great but highly flawed, and Scandal had to be my least favorite, yet it was quite entertaining. Isn't life nice?

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#145 Post by Yojimbo » Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:30 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:I Live in Fear -- yet another impressive film that was far better than received wisdom would have it.
I finally caught up on my BFI DVD of that last night and was astonished at how good it was, particularly in comparison to the perceived critical concensus
(I hadn't read this thread prior to watching it).
But, and I haven't read all of this thread so I don't know whether others are of similar opinion, I wonder was anybody else struck by the similarities with 'King Lear'.
Because, knowing Kurosawa's literary favourites, and, of course, that he later made an acknowledged version of 'Lear' in 'Ran', I wonder to what extent, if any, he deliberately built in 'Lear' themes into the film.

I can't wait to watch this film again, which is some kind of proof, I suppose, of how highly I already rank it in the Kurosawa canon
And its served to convince me to put in an order for this Kurosawa box-set, because no matter how much individuals can dismiss specific Kurosawa films, he was such a genius of a filmmaker that even in his early films he must have produced some treasures to wallow in

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Re: Eclipse Series 7: Postwar Kurosawa

#146 Post by dad1153 » Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:13 pm

Saw "The Idiot" on TCM-HD for the first time (DVR recording) over the weekend. I honestly didn't know what to expect from a Kurosawa-helmed Dostoyevsky adaptation (the Renoir-Kurosawa double dose of "The Lower Depths" is waiting in my kevyip pile) but I definitely expected better than this. Even with knowledge that this is a 166 min. butchered-by-studio-interference truncated version (the sudden wipes, explanation text at the start of Part 1 and sudden shifts in tone/mood kind-of hinted at that) "The Idiot" just feels too freaking long and plodding. It boils down to a depressingly-romantic love triangle between Kameda (Masayuki Mori portrays him as half-Forrest Gump and half-Jesus Christ, complete with heavenly choir!), mysterious Taeko (Setsuko Hara playing it cool) and feisty Ayako (an out-of-her-league Yoshiko Kuga) with Toshirô Mifune clearly enjoying himself as the unlikely friendly rival of Kameda for the affections of Taeko. While there's still enough of Kurosawa's mise-en-scène (setting the story in the snow-covered Northern region of Seppora is a masterstroke of conveying the character's inner mood at all times) and lots of enjoyable supporting performances (too many to mention) there is an aimless feel to the plodding narrative that comes across disconnected even from the realities of post-World War II Japanese society this movie was made for. Shame because, in fits and starts (the meeting between Taeko and Ayako in which the former's fate is sealed feels alive with palpable tension), there's a good movie buried under awkward continuity gaps.

"Scandal" and "I Live In Fear" are also on my DVR so I'll be watching these soon.

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Re: Eclipse Series 7: Postwar Kurosawa

#147 Post by Yojimbo » Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:20 pm

dad1153 wrote:Saw "The Idiot" on TCM-HD for the first time (DVR recording) over the weekend. I honestly didn't know what to expect from a Kurosawa-helmed Dostoyevsky adaptation (the Renoir-Kurosawa double dose of "The Lower Depths" is waiting in my kevyip pile) but I definitely expected better than this. Even with knowledge that this is a 166 min. butchered-by-studio-interference truncated version (the sudden wipes, explanation text at the start of Part 1 and sudden shifts in tone/mood kind-of hinted at that) "The Idiot" just feels too freaking long and plodding. It boils down to a depressingly-romantic love triangle between Kameda (Masayuki Mori portrays him as half-Forrest Gump and half-Jesus Christ, complete with heavenly choir!), mysterious Taeko (Setsuko Hara playing it cool) and feisty Ayako (an out-of-her-league Yoshiko Kuga) with Toshirô Mifune clearly enjoying himself as the unlikely friendly rival of Kameda for the affections of Taeko. While there's still enough of Kurosawa's mise-en-scène (setting the story in the snow-covered Northern region of Seppora is a masterstroke of conveying the character's inner mood at all times) and lots of enjoyable supporting performances (too many to mention) there is an aimless feel to the plodding narrative that comes across disconnected even from the realities of post-World War II Japanese society this movie was made for. Shame because, in fits and starts (the meeting between Taeko and Ayako in which the former's fate is sealed feels alive with palpable tension), there's a good movie buried under awkward continuity gaps.

"Scandal" and "I Live In Fear" are also on my DVR so I'll be watching these soon.
I'd love to know how much of the novel was contained in Kurosawa's intended cut of the movie; although I was somewhat disappointed with what seemed his too-literal adaptation of 'The Lower Depths', - and much preferred the Renoir version, even though its probably less faithful.
I think the available cut of 'The Idiot' is too much about the 'love triangle' elements of the novel, and lacks the overall sweep.

I much prefer 'Karamazov' to 'The Idiot' and hopefully I'll get to see a decent Russian film version of it, someday

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Re: Eclipse Series 7: Postwar Kurosawa

#148 Post by dad1153 » Thu Jan 27, 2011 11:15 am

Finally saw "Scandal" on an Eclipse DVD borrowed from the library (my DVR recording got corrupted, wouldn't play so had to delete it). Though tame by today's standards there's a feral intensity to the way Kurosawa condemns tabloid journalism (interesting that it thrived in Japan after the American occupation) that would be better appreciated if the director hadn't loaded this movie with enough melodrama to make Douglas Sirk blush. It doesn't help that the magazine publisher (Eitarô Ozawa's Hori) is such a scumbag he becomes a cartoon character villain rather than someone that articulates a 'freedom of the press' position to counter Mifune's accusatory finger. I never thought Takashi Shimura could portray a more pathetic loser than his character in "Ikiru," but for "Scandal" he plays an even bigger and more pathetic loser (an attorney taking bribes to throw the case against Mifune) with a dying daugher (Yôko Katsuragi ) around Christmas time. I admit that I got teary-eyed when Toshirô Mifune brought down a Christmas tree to the Hiruta household (great camera work), but then Kurosawa has to stage that Japanese rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" that's so over the top it works as both comic relief and for dramatic effect. Nobody can accuse Kurosawa of being subtle, but even for him this feels like a movie version of 'whack-a-mole' in which the man slams hard and often a handful of plot points (dying girl is pure, lawyer is super-conflicted, peasants are funny, etc.) over and over again. For a 'B' side title (to Kurosawa's 'A' side work like "Throne of Blood" and "Rashomon") the tune in "Scandal" ain't bad. It's just not cooking as intensely or feels (to me) as well-prepared as many other Kurosawa-Mifune cinematic dishes. It was fun.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Eclipse Series 7: Postwar Kurosawa

#149 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Jan 27, 2011 12:02 pm

Re: Scandal --

I view this as "entertainment", rather like "Hidden Fortress" -- but find this a whole lot more enjoyable (and with more interesting cinematography overall). Shimura's over-emoting works better here (in a somewhat cartoony setting) than it does in Ikiru. And Mifune is super-cool. ;~}

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Re: Eclipse Series 7: Postwar Kurosawa

#150 Post by dad1153 » Thu Jan 27, 2011 1:54 pm

^^^ I forgot to say that, just by giving Mifune a motorcycle (and running with that motif right out of the gate with the opening credits), Kurosawa makes his character in "Scandal" not only a cool mofo but one that stands out from the rest of his Japanese peers. That shot of Mifune bringing the Christmas tree on the bike easily stood out to me as "Scadal's" money shot (way more than the tabloid photograph that kick-starts the movie), followed closely by the moon reflection on the sewage pond outside the Hiruta home.

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