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Black Rain (1989)
"Kuroi ame" (original title)

 -  Drama | History | War  -  17 September 1989 (USA)
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Reviews: 20 user | 23 critic

The story of the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, based on Masuji Ibuse's novel.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Yoshiko Tanaka ...
Kazuo Kitamura ...
Shigematsu Shizuma
Etsuko Ichihara ...
Shigeko Shizuma
Shôichi Ozawa ...
Norihei Miki ...
Keisuke Ishida ...
Hisako Hara ...
Masato Yamada ...
Tamaki Sawa ...
Woman in Ikemoto-ya
Akiji Kobayashi ...
Kazuko Shirakawa ...
Old Woman with white flag
Kenjirô Ishimaru ...
Mayumi Tateichi ...
Fumiko of Ikemoto-ya
Taiji Tonoyama ...
The Old Priest
Fujio Tokita ...
40 Year Old Woman with burns


Mr and Mrs Shizuma, and their niece Yasuko, make their way through the ruins of Hiroshima, just after the atomic bomb has dropped. Five years later, Yasuko is living with her aunt and uncle, and her senile grandmother, in a village containing many of the bomb survivors. Yasuko does not appear to be affected by the bomb, but the Shizuma's are worried about her marriage prospects, as she could succumb to radiation sickness at any time. Written by Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

17 September 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Black Rain  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


According to Yoshiko Tanaka, the cast were forbidden by the director to leave the village they were filming in to return to Tokyo, even if they had a day off, because Imamura did not wish for them to then return to the location having experienced again the comfort and ease present-day of city life. See more »


Shigematsu Shizuma: "An unjust peace is better than a just war." It's important to note that this is said cynically.
See more »


Referenced in Independence Day (1996) See more »

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User Reviews

A haunting black-and-white masterpiece

In the light of the recent typhoon that hit the country hard (that is, typhoon Ondoy), I thought it upon myself to re-watch "Black Rain" (1988, Japan), Shohei Imamura's haunting black-and-white masterpiece on the destruction and after-effects of the atomic bomb that hit Hiroshima in the closing period of the Second World War. The destruction and impact of both catastrophes (war and typhoon) may differ in degree and quality, but the trauma and scar (physically and psychologically) nevertheless are still there.

It is a testament to a film's power that its images remain as potent and as indelible as when they were first seen. It is only that the difference now, in my case, is that watching those images has assumed a greater sense of poignancy and potency due to a first-hand experience of a near-monumental weather calamity. There is a sense of kinship, so to speak.

Imamura has always been one of my favorite Japanese filmmakers. His films are always a pleasure to watch because of their anarchy, sensuality and earthiness:"The Pornographers:Introduction to Anthropology" (1966), "Eijanaika" (1981), "Warm Water Under a Red Bridge" (2001), his two Palme d'Or-winners "Ballad of Narayama" (1983) and "The Eel" (1997), to name some. Given the mood of his films, who would have thought that he once served as an assistant director to Yasujiro Ozu, Japanese cinema's most austere and minimalist filmmaker? But then, it is Ozu's rigorous formality and domesticity that Imamura was rebelling against.

But then again, with "Black Rain" one can unmistakably sense Ozu's imprints. The father (or the father-figure) being intent on seeing his daughter get married before time runs out on both of them, and the stillness and calmness of the scenes showing all members of the family together (notably, the dinner scenes or in Ozu's film lexicon, the tatami) are something that the revered master filmmaker would perennially explore in his works ("Tokyo Story", "Late Spring"). Essentially, the over-all subdued and deliberate quality of "Black Rain" is a remarkable contrast to the bacchanalian chaos and instinctual drive of Imamura's entire filmography.

Still, this is not to say that watching the film would not be an altogether unsettling experience. "Black Rain", as aptly described by American film reviewer Leonard Maltin, is "filled with haunting black-and-white images." In the film's first 15 minutes, Imamura pulls no punches in showing the immediate and graphic horrors of the nuclear bombing, one after another (stiffly-burnt bodies, hanging flesh, walking dead, fires and debris everywhere, madness all over). An assault to the viewers' senses, definitely it is, coupled with Takashi Kawamata's somber b/w photography (he did the lensing in Yoshitaru Nomura's crime drama "The Incident") and Toru Takemitsu's chilling score (he did the music in such classics as Akira Kurosawa's "Ran" and Masahiro Shinoda's "Double Suicide").

Even during the film's supposed "tranquil" phase (that is, five years after the atomic bombing), one can still never have a sense of contentment and order, with the uneasiness and pain still being strongly felt by the survivors, not only in terms of failing physical health, but more so in terms of psychological trauma and social stigma. The human race, it now indisputably appears, has been destined to bear the legacy of the Bomb, for as long as it lives.

I already wrote a piece about "Black Rain" some years earlier (posted in, but only in comparison to Volker Schlondorff's magnificent "Tin Drum", another film dealing with monumental human folly and global catastrophe. Moreover, it has never been my practice to write twice about a film that I already wrote something about before. It is in the light of the recent weather calamity that devastated our country that I was prompted to re-visit and write something again about this remarkable Imamura film, as there is a wealth of lessons to be learned from both the film and the recent event in regards the imperfections and dangers of scientific knowledge and action, and the long-term scars and wounds inflicted by a wide- scale destruction (whether human- or nature-induced).

There have been a number of films dealing with nuclear holocaust and destruction ("Testament", "Threads", "The War Game", each situated within their own respective countries);and "Black Rain" stands among them, if not more so, for both its unapologetic and somber portrayal of individual and communal disintegration brought about by atomic devastation and the fact that it has a historical event as its basis.

Few weeks from now, another disaster film from Hollywood, Roland Emmerich's "2012", will finally hit (no pun intended) the big screen. As we all know, this American director's bunch of "disaster/apocalypse" films--"Independence Day", "Godzilla", "The Day After Tomorrow"-- serves no other purpose than to be of mere entertainment value, with no real insight into the nature and wisdom of apocalyptic disaster and the human condition being affected. I wonder how this "gigantic" movie would exploit the trauma, disorientation and apprehensions still being experienced by our people because of the recent weather calamity. To say that this flick is a precautionary tale would probably be no more than an overstatement.

But yes, I will still watch "2012".

4 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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