Two interwoven stories. The first is a biography of anarchist Sakae Osugi which follows his relationship with three women in the 1920s. The second centers around two 1960s' students researching Osugi's theories.
An engineer's wife returns home with a lost teenager. A man posing as her dad tries to get her back, causing the engineer to recall his youth as a revolutionary, obscured by dreamlike disruptions of time and space, fantasy and reality.
Near a remote Buddhist monastery, a young man falls in love with his sister and gets her pregnant. After a monk finds out, the young man becomes an assistant to a master sculptor, only to proceed to complicate matters with his affairs.
In the 1920s, the anarchist revolutionary Sakae Osugi is financially supported by his wife, journalist Itsuko Masaoka. He spends his time doing nothing but philosophizing about political systems and free love and visiting with his lovers Yasuko and the earlier feminist Noe Ito. He conveniently defends three principles for a relationship between a man and a woman: they should be financially independent (despite the fact that he is not); they should live in different places; and they should be free to have sex with other people. In 1969, twenty-year-old student, Eiko Sokuta is sexually active with various men. Her friend, Wada, is obsessed with fire and they usually play odd games using a camera while they read about Osugi and Ito.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Drunk upon the happiness of decadence, this film is a dialogue with you and I, the ambiguous participants in the erotica and revolutions of Sakae Osugi and Noe Ito, whose lives were dedicated to the beauty of chaos.
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The Japanese New Wave is one of my favorite cinematic movements, and this film comes recommended as one of the best of its era. Very unfortunately, it didn't do much for me at all. The one thing about it that I'll say right off the bat really impressed me was the cinematography. No time and place ever produced such gorgeous black and white movies, and this is up there with the best.
The film itself, though, is very slow-moving, kind of pretentious, and uninvolving. The story involves two timelines, one set in the Taisho period (starting in 1916) and the other in the present. It's about free love and the sexual revolution. In 1916, the philosopher Sakae Osugi practices and writes about free love. I'm pretty sure the Japanese word for philosopher translates literally in English to "aloof jerk," because this guy's version of free love is to screw around with different women and then say "Why can't you be chill about this?" when they confront him. In particular, Itsuko Masaoka becomes wildly jealous when he starts seeing Noe Ito on the side. She begins brandishing a knife, always threatening to get stabby with it. Late in the movie, there are like three consecutive sequences that take up a good quarter of the movie where she fulfills her promise.
The 1960s stuff involves two students who are studying Osugi. They have their own problems, but want to subscribe to the free love idea, which seems to be expanding around the world. At least in the director's cut, these segments take up only about a quarter of the film.
Look, I don't generally do well with long films, and perhaps this one's 3 hours and 36 minutes were just too daunting for me. The fact is, though, from the very beginning I was pretty bored with this one. 90% of the scenes just involve two or three people sitting around in a room bickering. I give Yoshida much credit for keeping it visually interesting throughout. The guy definitely has talent, but I wonder if this independently produced art film gave him too much freedom. Maybe he'd be better reigned in.
Whatever the case, I'm still perfectly happy to have this new Arrow Academy box set. Outside of Criterion, they're the best home video production company today. I hope I like the other two films better, and I hope one day I get to take a look at Yoshida's earlier, studio-produced films.
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