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Priest of Darkness (1936)
"Kôchiyama Sôshun" (original title)

 |  Drama  |  30 April 1936 (Japan)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 189 users  
Reviews: 3 user | 4 critic

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Title: Priest of Darkness (1936)

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Credited cast:
Chôjûrô Kawarasaki ...
Kochiyama Soshun
Kan'emon Nakamura ...
Kaneko Ichinojo
Shizue Yamagishi ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Chôemon Bandô
Jôji Ichikawa
Rakutarô Ichikawa
Sensho Ichikawa ...
Shoji Ichikawa
Shotaro Ichikawa
Heikuro Imanari
Atsuko Iryû
Daisuke Katô ...
Sôji Kiyokawa
Fumie Miyoshi ...


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Release Date:

30 April 1936 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Priest of Darkness  »

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1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

To Live
20 June 2014 | by See all my reviews

Among the many sure treasures of Japanese cinema we have lost are certainly the 23 films made by Yamanaka Sadao. Indeed, only three survive in full. All of these have been collected on DVD by the Masters of Cinema Series.

But just as is the case with Jean Vigo, great genius doesn't need an extensive filmography to present itself. The films that survive are not great because of hype, historicism or obscurity, but because they are gorgeous achievements in humane and engrossing storytelling and utter expertise in filmic terms. Yamanaka might never be considered in equal terms with Kurosawa by the mainstream, but he is just as inventive, radical and entertaining.

These films are desert island stuff for me, and as is often the case with Yamanaka, nothing is as it seems: a stolen knife (apparently) isn't stolen, it's a fake to begin with and is not; people we come to know by name have different names altogether. Pretense, roles. Whereas **Tange Sazen** (1935) of the previous year is a humorous film, the tragically humane and existential undersong of Yamanaka's films pervades even the light moments. "Kôchiyama Sôshun" (1936), translated into English as "Priest of Darkness", most certainly leans closer toward "Ninjô kami fûsen" (1937), yet perhaps with a rougher edge of melodrama.

All three existing Yamanakas revolve around a lost "object"; here we have the knife, sure, but also Hara Setsuko's Onami, who is reduced to an object of desire with a price tag by the clan from whom our title character, played by Yamanaka "regular" Kawarasaki Chôjûrô, helps to hide her. How much is a life worth, the film asks, and what does it really mean to live?

Yamanaka wrote in his last will: "If 'Humanity and Paper Balloons' should prove to be the last film by Sadao Yamanaka, I would feel a little aggrieved. It is not a loser's grief." The war would take him in Manchuria five months later. Not a loser's grief, but of one who knows that whatever films he would have made would have been beautiful.

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