An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn.
The mother of a feudal lord's only heir is kidnapped away from her husband by the lord. The husband and his samurai father must decide whether to accept the unjust decision, or risk death to get her back.
From the Criterion Collection: "Among the first Japanese films to deal directly with the scars of World War II, this drama about a group of rank-and-file Japanese soldiers jailed for crimes... See full summary »
Perhaps Kobayashi's most sordid film, Black River is an exposé of the rampant corruption on and around U.S. military bases following World War II. Kobayashi spirals out from the story of a ... See full summary »
In the World War II, the pacifist and humanist Japanese Kaji accepts to travel with his wife Michiko to the tiny Manchurian village Loh Hu Liong to work as supervisor in an iron ore mine to avoid to be summoned to the military service. Kaji works with Okishima (Sô Yamamura) and he implements a better treatment to the laborers and improves the mine production. When the feared Kempetai (The "Military Police Corps", the military police arm of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1881 to 1945) brings six hundred Chinese POWs to the mine, Kaji negotiates with their leaders expecting them to control their comrades. However the methods of Kaji upset the corrupt system in the site, and the foreman Furuya (Kôji Mitsui) plots a scheme to use the naive Chen (Akira Ishihama) to turn off the electrical power of the barbwire fences to allow the prisoners to escape. When seven prisoners are falsely accused of an attempt of fleeing, a cruel Kempetai sergeant uses his sword to behead the prisoners. When ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Although the original six-volume novel by Jumpei Gomikawa upon which the trilogy was based had been a bestseller in Japan, no film studio wanted to have anything to do with this material. The reasons for this were perfectly understandable: the novel's extreme length was unwieldy, its subject matter was relentlessly grim, and the narrative brought up the very touchy topic of crimes committed by the Japanese military during the Second World War. However, director Masaki Kobayashi was so adamant in his desire to make the film that he threatened to quit his film studio, Shochiku, if they refused to finance the project, and they relented. The trilogy went on to become a major critical and commercial success in Japan. See more »
At one point a Japanese guard begins to whip Kao, yet the motions he makes are just a flailing of his arms, visibly missing the actor. Kao retaliates by throwing a rock at the guard, but the rock never strikes the guard. However, the actor playing the guard overreacts as if he has been struck. See more »
This isn't like you.
You're running away. Don't you want me?
Of course I do.
And I want you, too. Yet we can't marry-...
How many times must I explain?
Because you might be called up? I wouldn't care if it was the day after. Of course I'd cry. I'd cry bitterly. But happiness only lies in marrying the one you love.
Alright. I'll take you back to my dormitory. You'll stay with me tonight. Alright?
Yes, I'll go.
[...] See more »
The struggle for humanity in an inhuman environment
An interesting film that portrays the struggles of an idealistic young Japanese man who is challenged to employ his idealism in the service of the Japanese war effort in WW II. A key aspect of this struggle is the protagonist's struggle within himself. Kaji, the young man, seeks to humanize the brutal conditions at a mining operation in Manchuria. Further complicating matters is the profound sense of national prejudice that shapes the relationships between the various characters. To the workers & Chinese prisoners, regardless of his professed ideals, Kaji is Japanese and therefore an oppressor. Although Kaji tries to win their trust, his own frustration enables him to strike a young Chinese helper, reinforcing the image of the brutal Japanese. This weakness is a key underlying theme. Even late in the film, when he takes a very brave stand against some executions, his effort is a bit late and his stand is successful only when the Chinese prisoners take up the protest. He struggles because her fears he cannot live up to the ideals he expresses.
Kaji is also confronted with the another irony. Although he opposes the war, he has chosen a route of avoidance rather than resistance. This is emphasized early in the film during an evening with a friend who is about to be inducted. His friend comments that, although they opposed the war, neither of them was brave enough to face the penalty for resistance of life imprisonment. Shortly thereafter, he takes the mine job to get a military exemption. Yet, if he is successful, the production improvements in the mine only fuel the Japanese war machine.
A valuable film because it explores areas of the pacific war that are not well know in the west. Also an interesting observation in the danger of half-measures when taking a moral stance. Kaji is ultimately confronted with the fact that you cannot avoid the war, only oppose it or aid it. I look forward to viewing the next film.
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