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Tanin no kao (1966)
This is a story about a man whose face is badly disfigured in a fire but not his body or hands. Instead of going to a plastic surgeon to have his face restored he goes to a scientist who specializes in plastics. The scientist makes him a plastic face mask which when it is put on is the actual face of the actor. You are never allowed to see the scarred face except for a tiny portion of it.
Then the man gets the bright idea to try to seduce his wife with his new face. She knows it's him all the time. He goes nuts and wants to kill his wife but all the doors are locked. He does kill the doctor which might not be a bad idea.
As if this is not bad enough there is a sub plot of a beautiful girl whose face is badly blemished on one side. For reassurance she seduces her brother and then commits suicide. Not a bad idea for the entire cast out of embarrassment for a terrible film. This film is so bad it may become a cult film.
The film appears to be fairly accurate historically. Mifune portrays Hideyoshi who was the great war-lord who unified Japan. After accomplishing that he solves the problem of what to do with his great but idle army by attacking Korea. He also hates Christians because they put God above Hideyoshi.
So that sets the scene for great pomp and gore. Very interesting sets and costumes. Hideyoshi was a great follower of the tea ceremony and that is shown as well as his all gold tea room. All in all he was a terrible despot.
Waga seishun ni kuinashi (1946)
A great docu-drama about the military takeover of Japan.
This is a very important film for Kurosawa and expresses the deep concern felt by Japanese liberals when the military took over Japan in the 1930's. The Thought Police arrested anyone who did not totally support the military and the War in China. People were afraid to express their thoughts even to close friends.
Thought control was complete in Japan and the Japanese people believed they were winning the war until the very end. All the news sources available only told of great victories even though great defeats were taking place.
It was a terrible time for liberals until the Americans occupied Japan. They quickly shut down the Thought Police and allowed freedom of thought and expression for the first time in over a decade. That is what Kurosawa is telling us about.
A geisha's life is difficult.
The winter snow scenery is spectacular! Keiko Kishi who plays the geisha is quite beautiful and does a splendid job acting in a difficult role. The film takes place in the 1930's at a mountain spa. It is well known that the geishas who work at spas are are more likely to be prostitutes than are the geishas who work in Kyoto. In this story sex causes complications which are less likely to occur if the relationship of the geisha was just as a singer and dancer.
Ryo Ikebe who plays the male lead is married and is the strong silent type. Needless to say the poor geisha hasn't got a chance of winning him.
A GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT
Kurosawa really blew it on this one. Every genius is allowed a failure. The concept is fine but the execution is badly blurred.
There is an air of fantasy about this film making it something of an art film. The poverty stricken of Tokyo deserve a fairer and more realistic portrayal. Many of them have interesting stories to tell. A very disappointing film.
Yari no gonza (1986)
A wonderful classic samurai story.
The sets and costumes are wonderful and take you back to the early Tokugawa period. If you feel that some of the acting is understated you should remember that the people of the samurai class were not supposed to show their emotions. They should be quiet, calm and composed no matter what the circumstances. It is in the Japanese theatre, bunraku and kabuki, that emotions are allowed greater freedom. So I think the acting is an authentic portrayal of the period.
The beautiful color photography should also be mentioned.
Kazoku gêmu (1983)
A rather slap-stick portrayal of an important story.
A middle-class Japanese teenager won't study to pass exams to get into high school so a tutor is hired. The tutor, who is basically a slob, gets the done. The family lives in a high-rise apartment across the Sumida River from Tokyo and it is interesting to see what family life is like in that set-up. The teenager's mother tries valiantly to see her children succeed in a rather chaotic situation.
The Japanese education system is a rat-race to pass exams. It deserves a better story than this one.
Santa sangre (1989)
This very strange film will appeal to few people.
This is Freud with a sledge hammer! The father is very sadistic, the mother is very jealous, and the son kills women who are sexually attractive. Nothing is subtle in this film. Roger Ebert gives the film 4 stars because it is different. I'm being very generous to give it 2 because it is so different you have to ask why was this film ever made? It is a horrible horror film.
A charming, beautiful film based on a great novel.
One should first read The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki to better understand this film. It is a very great novel about the life of four middle-class sisters in Osaka, Japan in the 1930's. The book describes in great detail the many subtleties of life in Japan which a Westerner can miss understanding in the film. The film rather closely follows the book and is very beautifully photographed.
Konjiki yasha (1954)
Frustrated love can lead to terrible unhappiness.
A penniless student and a wealthy man want to marry the same girl in 1890 Japan. The parents naturally think wealth should be chosen but the girl is only convinced after her mother tells
her the wealthy man will finance the student's studies. So the
girl thinks she is making a noble sacrifice by marrying the rich man. This ends up making everyone unhappy until a Hollywood
The depiction of Japan in 1890 is OK as is the acting. The film seems to be saying follow your heart and not your parents.