Criterion Collection: Death by Hanging | Blu-ray Review

Before he would come to be known as one of cinema’s most controversial provocateurs with his most infamous title, 1976’s In the Realm of the Senses, Nagisa Oshima was heralded as one of the most influential voices in the Japanese New Wave of the 1960s. The decade prior showed the director contemplating urban youth issues, showcasing the moral quandaries of a new, disenchanted generation struggling to define notions of identity in Post WWII Japan. In the early 60s, Oshima spent most of his time working in television before returning to features predicated on lurid social issues usually involving a fascinating mixture of sexuality and crime. But 1968 saw the auteur tackling the treatment of Korean immigrants in Japan in two striking portraits, Three Resurrected Drunkards and the dark comedy Death by Hanging.

Based on an actual criminal case from a decade prior concerning a Korean immigrant who murdered two Japanese girls,
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David Reviews Nagisa Oshima’s Death By Hanging [Criterion Blu-Ray Review]

With the exception of several crowd-pleasing samurai epics (like Zatoichi and Three Outlaw Samurai) and a few bargain-priced historical costume dramas (such as The Ballad of Narayama and Gate of Hell), the flow of newly released Japanese art films by the Criterion Collection has slowed to a trickle over the past five years or so. (And for the sake of politeness and avoiding pointless controversy, I won’t invoke Jellyfish Eyes in this argument either.) We’ve obviously enjoyed a steady stream of chanbara, Ozu and especially Kurosawa Blu-ray upgrades during this past half-decade, and there have been several outstanding Japanese sets recently issued as part of the Eclipse Series as well, but we really haven’t seen much else along these lines in the main lineup since Kaneto Shindo’s Kuroneko came out in the fall of 2011. That’s over 200 spine numbers ago! But I’m happy to report
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Death by Hanging

You want radical? Look no further. Nagisa Oshima's near-legendary issue drama makes a wickedly frightening protest against the death penalty, but then proceeds into formal abstraction and the endorsement of a violent radical position. You can't find a political 'gauntlet picture' as jarring or as potent as this one. Death by Hanging Blu-ray The Criterion Collection 798 1968 / B&W / 1:85 widescreen / 118 min. / Kôshikei / available through The Criterion Collection / Street Date February 16, 2016 / 39.95 Starring Do-yun Yu, Kei Sato, Fumio Watanabe, Toshiro Ishido, Masao Adachi, Rokko Toura, Hosei Komatsu, Masao Matsuda, Akiko Koyama. Cinematography Yasuhiro Yoshioka Film Editor Sueko Shiraishi Original Music Hikaru Hayashi Written by Michinori Fukao. Mamoru Sasaki, Tsutomu Tamura, Nagisa Oshima Produced by Masayuki Nakajima, Takuji Yamaguchi, Nagisa Oshima Directed by Nagisa Oshima

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Believe me, you ain't seen nothing yet. Nagisa Oshima is a radical's radical, a cinema stylist completely committed to his politics -- which
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