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Anthony Chau-Sang Wong
During the Japanese occupation of China, two prisoners are dumped in a peasant's home in a small town. The owner is bullied into keeping the prisoners until the next New Year, at which time they will be collected. The village leaders convene to interrogate the prisoners. The townspeople then struggle to accommodate the prisoners. One is a bellicose Japanese nationalist, the other a nervous translator. Will the townspeople manage to keep the prisoners until the New Year? Written by
Ken Miller <email@example.com>
Do I feel late to the party on this one - how could I overlook this for the last 4 years? I was floored.
Watching "Devils on the Doorstep" reminded me of the first time I watched "seven samurai". Barring obvious comparisons such as being shot in black & white, using a combination of drama and comedy, and finishing it off with a startling ending, the movie's sense of time was fluid thanks to an excellent screenplay. Although the movie is lengthy, like many gems of Asian cinema, it was anything but a chore to watch it.
The plot is deceivingly simple, come alive thanks to Jiang's poetic directorial style. His characterization is succinct, but evocative, built up from his own personal memories. His vision of war has many ties to US cinema, with delirious, often hauntingly surreal, images of people trying to reconcile their own individual nature with that of being part of a collective.
I can see why Chinese censors would take offense to the film. China is painted as the victim that it is so often stereotyped as. However, with the country's continued objections against the Japanese glossing over wartime indiscretions, it could be seen as having nationalist overtones. I don't see the film as necessarily sympathetic to the Japanese: at the end of the movie, they are still the "devils". Additionally, when the plot is extrapolated outside of the film itself, the irony is of course that Japan was defeated by a powerful external force due to their brash political maneuvering.
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