The Temple of Wild Geese 雁の寺 Dir: Yuzo Kawashima (1962)

The Temple of Wild Geese    Temple of Wild Geese Film Poster Gan no Tera

雁の寺  Gan no Tera

Duration: 96 mins.

Release Date: December 26th, 1962

Director:  Yuzo Kawashima

Writer:  Kazuo Funabashi, Yuzo Kawashima (Screenplay), Tsutomu Minakami (Original Novel)

Starring: Ayako Wakao, Masao Mishima, Kuniichi Takami, Isao Kimura, Ganjiro Nakamura, Kunikazu Takami, Ryoko Kamo, Mineko Mandai, Kiwami Sazanka,

IMDB

One of the chief ironies of life is that those who profess to be the most morally upstanding often end up being the most immoral. With this in mind, director Yuzo Kawashima, chief satirist of post-war Japan, finds great material to work with when it comes to those in the religious orders. However, instead of laughs it is all menace as dark passions surge out of control. His film’s dark material finds its match with its aesthetic, a charcoal-like texture and look and foreboding music which make this a chilling film as we venture into the moral hypocrisy of the inhabitants in a Buddhist temple, all of which affects one boy’s warped mentality.

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The Graceful Brute しとやかな獣 Dir: Yuzo Kawashima (1962)

The Graceful Brute   The Graceful Brute Film Poster

しとやかな獣  Shitoyakana kedamono

Release Date: December 26th, 1962

Duration: 96 mins.

Director:  Yuzo Kawashima

Writer:  Kaneto Shindo (Screenplay),

Starring: Ayako Wakao, Yunosuke Ito, Hisano Yamaoka, Manamitsu Kawabata, Yuko Hamada, Eiji Funakoshi, Kyu Sazanka, Chocho Miyako, Hideo Takamatsu,

IMDB

A possible tag line for this film could be, “a family that embezzles together, stays together”, such is the content of this film which shows a day in the life of a greedy family as they swindle from subjects in their social circle. Ten actors, one location, and a narrative that takes place over 24 hours, Graceful Brute (1962) is a masterful black comedy that critiques the changing morals of Japanese people during the economic miracle of the post-war years.

The film almost exclusively takes place in the fifth floor apartment of the Maeda’s. They live in a danchi (housing complex) designed by Kunio Maekawa¹, the sort of forward-thinking utilitarian building that was meant to serve every need of its residents and promote community and harmony but the values of the Maeda’s are far from these ideals. They seem to be a stable family unit of two conservative parents (who wear kimono and listen to traditional music) and their hip son and daughter (out on the town in Ginza’s bars) but as the narrative unfolds we see the depth of their duplicity, selfishness, and materialistic behaviour which unites them. They are a product of the age.

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Room For Let    貸間あり Dir: Yuzo Kawashima (1959)

Room For Let   貸間あり Film Poster

貸間あり Kashima Ari

Running Time: 112 mins.

Release Date: June 02nd, 1959

Director: Yuzo Kawashima

Writer: Giichi Fujimoto, Yuzo Kawashima (Screenplay), Masuji Ibuse (Original Novel),

Starring: Frankie Sakai, Nobuko Otowa, Ikio Sawamura, Etsuko Ichihara, Takeshi Kato, Chikage Awashima, Chieko Naniwa, Shoichi Ozawa,

IMDB

This comedy gem was programmed by Britain’s Japan Foundation for their 2018 Touring Film Programme to celebrate the centenary of Yuzo Kawashima (1918 – 1963), a master Yuzo Kawashimaof satire who was little-known outside of Japan until around the 2010s when festivals like Berlin started programming restored prints of his films. The Japan Society in New York also recently screened a number of his films so his profile is rising. Closer to the UK it is hard to get many of his titles but we have one film at least, “Bakumatsu Taiyoden” (1957), which was released via Eureka’s Masters of Cinema label and it proved to be a funny ensemble comedy set during the Bakumatsu period when the shogunate was coming to an end. This historical setting is, according to experts, an outlier for what Kawashima was known for which was telling tales tragedy and comedy in the lives of ordinary people in post-war Japan, a nation in flux as people returned from colonies and front-lines, emerged from rubble-strewn streets and charred houses, to find a more liberal set of ideas taking root in the home islands with traditional social structures being modernised, cities being rebuilt, and everybody on the make. Indeed, it seems Room For Let is more representative of his output and some suggest it even goes as far as to act as a link between the formalised Golden Age of cinema and the New Wave as the chaotic sense of change and oddball personalities are captured on screen with class and plenty of ribald humour. Seeing it as part of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2018 with a friend was great but having the privilege of seeing a rare 35mm print was fantastic as we were taken back in time to 1950s Osaka!

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Genkina Hito Previews Japanese Film/Anime Releases in the UK in 2013 Part 2 Film

Aiko Genki Jason 2013 Preview Banner

2012 was an extraordinarily great year for Japanese film fans in the UK what with the film festivals getting awesome titles like Ai to Makoto and Key of Life as well as Third Window Films releasing a plethora of classic and new titles like the Tetsuo boxed set and Kotoko(which turned out to be a group of very popular posts for this blog) and supporting Sion Sono’s latest releases. That was just on the live-action front because Kaze have shown some gumption in acquiring the rights to the Berserk movie trilogy and even going as far as giving them a theatrical release!

What are the films we should be looking forward to in the next year? Well this is hardly an exhaustive list but I hope to give a heads up as to when some great titles are about to drop!

Third Window Films

Third Window Films (TWF) have built up an impressive catalogue of titles, turning away from big-budget flicks (apart from Villain) and focussing on indie titles. There are a great selection of Sion Sono films like Cold Fish and Himizu available from them as well as titles like Kamikaze Girls and Fine, Totally Fine and I have not mentioned some of the Korean films they released like Guns and Talks, No Blood, No Tears (expect another Korean movie season with reviews for them!). Quite frankly, if Third Window Films did not exist Asian movie fans in the UK would be quite bereft of sources for some of the best and up to date films coming out of the Far East.

What is on the cards for 2013?

Serpent's Path PosterThe first two major titles that have caught my eye (and got a post) are Eyes of the Spider and Serpent’s Path (released on June 24th) from the genius that is Kiyoshi Kurosawa. I would like to think that a brief post-Himizu screening chat with Adam about Kurosawa’s films prompted him to pick up the rights to the films but that would be too Eyes of the Spider Posterfanciful. Anyway these two films were low-budget gangster revenge films films that Kurosawa made two weeks with the same cast. Both films feature notable actors Sho Aikawa, Teruyuki Kagawa, Dankan and Yurei Yanaga, all three of whom would pop up in later Kurosawa films (Aikawa had a cameo as a priest in Séance Dankan appeared in Pulse while Kagawa provided a stunning lead performance in Tokyo Sonata.

I still cannot find a trailer for either Serpent’s Path or Eyes of the Spider despite searching in English and Japanese. I will have to emigrate to Niconico. Anyway, I keep threatening to purchase Kurosawa’s unerotic pink-film and I might just as it is available…

The other major release for 2013 is…

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Japanese Films at the Berlin Film Festival 2012

Berlinale 2012 starts today and it has a huge selection of international films. This is a film blog focussing on Japanese films so I’ll detail what content in the various programmes is Japanese. There is a great selection of old and new here but the unearthing of director Yuzo Kawashima is the most interesting.

Bakumatsu Taiyoden – The Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate (1957) 110 mins.

Yoko Minamida, Frankie Sakai and Sachiko Hidari in Bakumatsu Taiyoden

Directed by Yuzo Kawashima and starring Yoko Minamida, Frankie Sakai and Sachiko Hidari

This comedy takes place in the politically turbulent end days of the Shogunate and involves a colourful cast of characters in a brothel. Shohei Imamura helped to write the screenplay.

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