Kaneto Shindo

Discussion and info on people in film, ranging from directors to actors to cinematographers to writers.

Moderator: DarkImbecile

Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
life_boy
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:51 pm
Location: Mississippi

Kaneto Shindo

#1 Post by life_boy » Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:35 am

Kaneto Shindô (1912-2012) 新藤 兼人
Image

Filmography (as Director) [DVD releases are only mentioned if English subtitles are available]
愛妻物語 Aisai monogatari aka Story of a Beloved Wife (1951)
雪崩 Nadare aka Avalanche (1952)
原爆の子 Gembaku no ko aka Children of Hiroshima (1952)
縮図 Shukuzu aka Epitome (1953)
女の一生 Onna no issho aka Life of a Woman (1953)
どぶ Dobu aka The Ditch (1954)
狼 Ôkami aka The Wolves (1954)
銀心中 Shirogane Shinjū (1956)
流離の岸 Ruri no kishi (1956)
女優 Joyu aka An Actress (1956)
海の野郎ども Umi no yarodomo (1957)
悲しみは女だけに Kanashimi wa inna dakeni aka Sorrow is Only for Women (1958)
第五福竜丸 Daigo Fukuryu-Maru aka Lucky Dragon No. 5 (1959)
花嫁さんは世界一 Hanayome-san wa sekai-ichi (1959)
裸の島 Hadaka no shima aka The Naked Island (1960) R2 MOC/Criterion Hulu
人間 Ningen aka Human (1962)
母 Haha aka Mother (1963)
鬼婆 Onibaba aka Demon Woman (1964) R1 Criterion/R2 MOC/Criterion Hulu/iTunes
悪党 Akutŏ aka A Scoundrel (1965)
本能 Honnou aka Lost Sex (1966)
性の起原 Sei no kigen aka Libido (1967)
藪の中の黒猫 Kuroneko akaBlack Cat from the Grove (1968) R1 Criterion/R2 MOC/Criterion Hulu/iTunes
強虫女と弱虫男 Tsuyomushi onna to yowamushi otoko aka Strong Women, Weak Men (1968)
かげろう Kagerou aka Heat Wave Island (1969)
触角 Shokkaku aka Strange Affinity (1970)
裸の十九才 Hadaka no Jukyu-sai aka Live Today, Die Tomorrow! (1970)
鉄輪 Kanawa aka The Iron Crown (1972)
讃歌 Sanka aka Hymn (1972)
心 Kokoro aka The Heart (1973)
わが道 Waga michi aka My Way (1974)
ある映画監督の生涯 溝口健二の記録 Aru eiga-kantoku no shogai aka Kenji Mizoguchi: The Life of a Film Director (1975) R1 Criterion (special feature on Ugestu)
竹山ひとり旅 Chikuzan hitori tabi aka The Life of Chikuzan (1977)
絞殺 Kôsatsu aka The Strangling (1979)
北斎漫画 Hokusai manga aka Edo Porn (1981) R3 Japan "Hong Kong Version" (YesAsia)
地平線 Chihei-sen aka The Horizon (1984)
ブラックボード Burakkubōdo aka Black Board (1986)
落葉樹 Raku-yo-ju aka Tree Without Leaves (1986)
さくら隊散る Sakura-tai Chiru (1988)
濹東綺譚 Bokuto kidan aka The Strange Story of Oyuki (1992) R2 Japan (YesAsia)
午後の遺言状 Gogo no Yuigon-jo aka A Last Note (1995) R2 Japan (YesAsia)
生きたい Ikitai aka Will to Live (1999)
三文役者 Sanmon yakusha aka By Player (2000)
ふくろう Fukurô aka Owl (2003)
石内尋常高等小学校 花は散れどもIshiuchi jinjô kôtô shôgakkô: Hana wa chiredomo aka Teacher and Three Children (2008)
一枚のハガキ Ichimai no hagaki aka Postcard (2011)

Web Resources
Bomb Magazine (April 11, 2011)
Classical Virtues: Shindo Kaneto and Yoshimura Kozaburo - BFI
Live Today, Die Tomorrow review (Midnight Eye)
Strictly Film School (insights on several films)
Purple Magazine Interview with Shindo (F/W 2011 issue 16)

Obituaries
Fandor.com/Keyframe - US
The Guardian - UK
The Independent - UK
New York Times - US
Telegraph - UK
Variety - US

Print Resources
Life Is Work: Kaneto Shindo and the Art of Directing, Screenwriting, and Living 100 Years Without Regrets - Kaneto Shindo/edited by Ken Provencher (Kaya Press, 2015)

Forum Discussions
Criterion Collection - 226 Onibaba
Criterion Collection - 584 Kuroneko
Masters of Cinema - 12 / BD 54 The Naked Island
Masters of Cinema - 13 / BD 55 Onibaba
Masters of Cinema - 14 / BD 56 Kuroneko

User avatar
life_boy
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:51 pm
Location: Mississippi

Re: Kaneto Shindo

#2 Post by life_boy » Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:40 pm

I stumbled across Kaneto Shindô's name when I was reading about the American atomic bomb tests in the Pacific and uncovered a little known story about a Japanese fishing ship that was affected by a test near Bikini Atoll. It was the basis for his movie Lucky Dragon No. 5. The only Shindô I was familiar with was The Naked Island, which I had seen years ago. Though I enjoyed it immensely, I never thought to really dig into his oeuvre until uncovering that film title. The following are my attempts to come to terms with him as a cinematic artist.

Children of Hiroshima (1952)
Shindô has such a delicate way of unfolding his narratives, tracing emotion as it hinges upon circumstance and doubles back on itself in beautiful and unexpected ways. He comes to this story with a clear message in mind, but what makes the film worthwhile are the areas around the obvious message that he fills in with rich observation and genuine pathos.

As one can tell from the title and date of production, Children of Hiroshima is clearly a movie interested in exploring the aftermath of the devastating atomic blast of August 6, 1945. The event itself does get its frightening and brilliantly stylized treatment, but Shindô is more interested in the continued effects of the bomb rather than the bomb itself. He focuses in on those who suddenly develop radiation sickness, those who are permanently crippled or disfigured, the orphans, the families forever altered, the people struggling to rebuild a career or business. On the surface it can feel that he is looking for types to fill out a well-orbed picture, but he is so tender in the way he deals with his characters that it is impossible to fault him because he is always painting rich portraits, even if they are often in miniature.

The Wolves (1955)
What looks like it will begin as something like a police procedural turns on its head to be an empathetic dissection of post-war economic helplessness. Shindô hits us with the event - the heist of a bank truck by a group of unmasked thieves in broad daylight on a rural road - and then goes back to fill in all of the character details that brought it about. The shocking thing turns out to be how inevitable the heist is. These people are so apologetic, so aware that this is outside of their character, so humane as they go through each step of the heist. The heist that, on the surface played as a common inciting incident to a movie of people on the run, gets decontextualized as the climax of desperate lives of failed insurance salesmen, salesmen given the task of trying to sell policies to people just as poor and desperate as they are.

This is observational filmmaking at its absolute finest. The smallest details have weight. The happiness of home lives are juxtaposed simply by a greeting ("You're back." vs. "Welcome home."). The image that opens the film is a caterpillar being attacked by several ants. Needless to say, the image reads one way at the top and reads quite another way when it returns. This film needs to be seen.

Lucky Dragon No. 5 (1959)
One of those movies that appears so simple and effortless that it is easy to take for granted exactly what it's doing. Shindô is taking a pertinent real life event (something that now exists simply as one of the footnotes of the atomic age) and infuses it with humanity and subtle observation. This is something akin to watercolor painting, where the fewest brushstrokes somehow render the thing in such clarity and unexpected precision that the form becomes as intriguing as the subject. And the subject here is fascinating.

A Japanese fishing boat suffers some poor fortune in its haul and eventually finds itself privy to the Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test near the Bikini Atoll and an unexpected rain of atomic ash that gives all the crew members radiation sickness. What begins as a general portrait of the boatsmen eventually focuses in on a touching portrait of Aikichi Kuboyama and his dwindling health. Still, not that this is a film without political bite considering the bureaucratic red tape and double-speak that meets the Japanese by the American officials in light of their atomic test. The procedure of these events is important to Shindô and is not ignored. A masterpiece of simple beauty, narrative economy and subtle pathos.

Onibaba (1964)
Probably Shindô's best known film thanks to Criterion and MOC releases. Shindô paints a bleak picture of the shifting morality brought on by wars and the desperation inherited by those who are outside of the valors of battle. A woman and her daughter-in-law quietly slay samurai near a lake in 14th century Japan. They meticulously remove the armor and anything else of value and trade with a local merchant for grain. They are subsisting and surviving but just barely.

When a neighbor returns under dubious circumstances (the son/husband of the women did not return with him), it sets off a chain of lust/fulfillment in the young woman and moral outrage/base jealousy in the older woman. This eventually leads to the invoking of supernatural visitation and obsession. What is startling about Shindô's film (besides the high contrast lighting and striking visuals) is the starkness of the landscape. We never the leave the reeds, which act as an ethereal spirit world, constantly blown through by the spirits which eventually manifest in the form of a posed samurai demon. Fantastic sound design too, by the way.

I didn't connect with this one as quickly as his earlier films. It is quite different in tone and style. I can see how this might be Shindô's most popular film, if only because it is less quietly observational than some of his 50's masterworks. Emotion and image are very much on the surface in this one. It works - and proves his versatility - but I would warn anyone who takes Onibaba as a Shindô entry point to not be disappointed by his other films, where the depth of subtle characterization and restrained mise-en-scène seems to be more representative of his amazing talent.

User avatar
neilist
Joined: Wed Nov 30, 2011 5:09 am
Location: Cambridge, UK

Re: Kaneto Shindo

#3 Post by neilist » Mon Aug 31, 2015 7:02 am

life_boy wrote:a little known story about a Japanese fishing ship that was affected by a test near Bikini Atoll. It was the basis for his movie Lucky Dragon No. 5.
This was also the direct inspiration for the intro to Honda's 'Gojira' (a.k.a. 'Godzilla') and part of the basis behind the whole film itself. Although maybe not so well known now, it was quite big news at the time, particularly in Japan.

User avatar
life_boy
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:51 pm
Location: Mississippi

Re: Kaneto Shindo

#4 Post by life_boy » Mon Aug 31, 2015 1:41 pm

neilist wrote:
life_boy wrote:a little known story about a Japanese fishing ship that was affected by a test near Bikini Atoll. It was the basis for his movie Lucky Dragon No. 5.
This was also the direct inspiration for the intro to Honda's 'Gojira' (a.k.a. 'Godzilla') and part of the basis behind the whole film itself. Although maybe not so well known now, it was quite big news at the time, particularly in Japan.
Yes, it was certainly big news in Japan at the time and Lucky Dragon No. 5 deals with the panic that ensued (in many ways, unwarranted due to misinformation and mass fear). Sorry. Wasn't trying to sound like an overly naive westerner. It was just surprising to me that I had never heard of it despite having a keen curiosity in the atomic age and many of the tests the Americans conducted during that time. I would be curious to know if the incident is remembered much in Japan these days.

I have never seen the original Gojira and didn't realize Hondo also made reference to that event in his film. Very interesting!

User avatar
life_boy
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:51 pm
Location: Mississippi

Re: Kaneto Shindo

#5 Post by life_boy » Wed Oct 14, 2015 7:17 pm

By Player (2000)
Another great film from Shindô. It is a series of vignettes from Taiji Tonoyama's life as a character actor working through the mid-late 20th century in Japan. Some parts play like a stylized documentary (interspersed film clips with subtitles denoting title and year of production; Nobuko Otowa addressing the camera but speaking to Taiji) and other parts play like a muted character study of a self-destructive addict.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the film is simply how unremarkable Taiji Tonoyama is. He is a man addicted to alcohol and sex and he just so happens to have a wife committed to putting up with him and a decent career as a character actor. He goes through all the arcs common to those addictions and doesn't really show perseverance so much as luck in making it through. Shindô never paints an utterly bleak picture of Tonoyama's addiction, because he isn't as interested in the addiction as he is in the man himself and in the relationship between him and the girl he married. Shindô has a genuine love and respect for this man, and that humanity is present in the way Shindô never allows us to despise Tonoyama, despite his conscious inconsideration for those around him.

In many ways, Shindô seems to see himself somehow wrapped up in Tonoyama's destiny. Frequent collaborators, the film also works as a retrospective of Shindô's filmography and a sly self-examination of the director's work and prerogatives. He leaves himself mostly out of it, presenting himself as "the director," a man often alone, aloof, and partially concealed, fruitlessly crafting ironies in the physical world (such as trying to burn driftwood in the rain or catch fish in a fish less pond) while trying to create beauty and reality on screen. It is this commitment to realism that causes complaints and dissension from some of the crew at one point, as they are shooting in a rural village far away from the normal urban comforts in the late 60's. But Shindô doesn't linger on the circumstances or foibles of particular productions, but they do paint a richer portrait and understanding of the director's work if one has an interest in it.

Tonoyama doesn't think too much of himself, and perhaps that is what fascinates Shindô. "This is my message for the director," Taiji says on his deathbed in the film. "I'm a non-asipring hack actor. Thank you for taking care of me." Somehow, it is impossible not to feel empathy for someone like this, to have an appreciation for the masses of people who move through the world and pass on without a second thought by most of the world. These are the forgotten people. They will never achieve fame or worldly immortality, they never get movies made about their lives; but they live their lives and struggle and hope and get lucky sometimes and find love and some measure of happiness. Tonoyama is on that fringe of fame and celebrity that few recognize as actually being near obscurity. Like the backup singers on all those great records in the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, Tonoyama is a forgotten someone. His only major professional achievement was the staring role in The Naked Island, for which he won an award. In one scene he tosses it out the window because he feels he doesn't deserve it. In some ways, it proves he always deserved it.

Kuroneko (1968)
This is what happens when a cinematic master takes the reigns of a horror story: you get a masterpiece of style and atmosphere, an elegant, eery, textured, evocative, gorgeous and utterly chilling ghost story that gnaws at some of the unspoken class aggressions of feudal Japan. This along with Onibaba are apparently Shindô's most well-known films: both horror movies, both available via Criterion. That said, those two movies feel like such stylistic outliers in a career far more concerned with a degree of naturalism rather than gloriously overt stylization present. It just further illustrates his mastery of technique and vision that he could do both so exquisitely.

He did hundreds of things really well but Shindô's greatest strength may be his attention to detail. Here we get that mostly in the exquisite sound design, that creates the ethereal tone he was trying to set. The film opens up with a long shot with a share of farmland, a house to one side and a distant bamboo grove. There is the rhythmic noise of a cricket hinting at an idyllic scene. But then a fleet of about 25 men emerge from the grove. Even though we see it from a distance their movement feels menacing. The men are samurai and stoop immediately by the irrigation path to slurp up water. A woman and daughter-in-law are living in the hut and quickly find themselves imposed upon for food, raped and then left for dead. We are left with that idyllic shot and the cricket when smoke suddenly emerges from their house and the house burns to the ground.

The women become vengeful ghosts that drink the blood of samurais in the nearby bamboo grove. There is an element of mystery, beauty and seduction as these forgotten women lay waste to the samurai by playing on their weaknesses for drunkenness and sex. They make quick work over several nights, leaving the people at the Rajomon Gate scrambling and fearful. Though slowly becoming wise to what's happening, the samurai are easily overcome because the ghosts are hard to kill.

Shindô is unflinching in his critique of the presumed inherent nobility of the samurai. He paints them as petty, fearful, vicious and oppressive. Even Gintoki, who takes over the second half of the film, is a peasant who lucks into a situation that allows him to become a samurai. He is opportunistic more than he is brave. He lies in order to gain acceptance and position. He may be the most noble of them all, but in the end he is left violently flailing his sword through the illusory mansion trying to kill the ghost of his mother.

I could write pages on this movie (and I may do it at some point), but I will wrap this up by saying that I have never seen Shindô so embrace an otherworldly stylization like he does here. Even Onibaba - though eery and evocative - never went all in on the supernatural element because it was ultimately a story about people who believed in the supernatural world, not about the supernatural world itself. This is different. This is the supernatural, front and center. He often uses straight cuts to carry the weight of transformations and to heighten the otherworldly sense of movement. It is astonishing and quite effective and just proves that not a whole lot is needed to make an incredible movie.

Post Reply