Nakano Spy School / School of Spies / Rikugun Nakano gakko (1966)

Before I wander off into social commentary, I should start by saying this is a remarkably well-made, and in its last half, unusually taut movie. I should not have been surprised, since it was directed by Yasuzo Masumura, but I was. Raizo Ichikawa is Jiro, a university graduate in 1938 who has been in something … Continue reading Nakano Spy School / School of Spies / Rikugun Nakano gakko (1966)

Sword Devil / The Curse / Ken ki (1965)

One of the pleasures of "foreign" movies is that what you think will be an entirely predictable genre film turns out not to be so predictable after all.  This certainly happens in Ken ki. As often occurs in Japanese films, the tone and sense of realism constantly shifts and it takes some genuinely unexpected turns … Continue reading Sword Devil / The Curse / Ken ki (1965)

Green Mountains (Pt. I) / Blue Mountains / Aoi sanmyaku (1949)

The "Americanization" of social customs during the Occupation years, and Japanese resistance to that Americanization, was most often expressed itself in movies through the issue of young love. However, I don't think I have ever seen a movie in which the cultural clash is so confusing or hard to understand as in Green Mountains. In … Continue reading Green Mountains (Pt. I) / Blue Mountains / Aoi sanmyaku (1949)

Color Print of Edo / Nishikie edosugata hatamoto to machiyakko (1939)

  Over his long career, Utaemon Ichikawa regularly appeared is a series about a character known as the Bored Hatamoto. Despite the title here, this is not one of that series, but it does illustrate Ichikawa's unique blend of samurai skill and good-hearted humor in a very rare pre-war film made when he was still … Continue reading Color Print of Edo / Nishikie edosugata hatamoto to machiyakko (1939)

Flame of My Love / My Love is Burning / Waga koi wa moenu (1949)

In an obvious parallel to the changing world in which Japanese women were moving toward some form of independence as a result of the Occupation, Flame of My Love examines one of the earliest attempts to gain equality for Japanese women during the 1880s. Kinuyo Tanaka is Eiko. She is inspired by a meeting with … Continue reading Flame of My Love / My Love is Burning / Waga koi wa moenu (1949)

Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman / Eburi manshi no yuga-na seikatsu (1963)

Keiju Kobayashi as Eburi-man on his day off In Elegant Life, the Japanese shomin-geki reaches some kind of landmark, satirical yet sympathetic, sad yet wildly funny, in a film of such wit and visual imagination that it is inexplicable how it has been all but unknown outside Japan for so long. Eburi works in an … Continue reading Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman / Eburi manshi no yuga-na seikatsu (1963)