6.8/10
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5 user 9 critic

Zegen (1987)

A Japanese immigrant in 1901 Hong Kong wishes to become a simple shopkeeper. Fate soon intervenes, allowing him to mix adventure and fervent patriotism with greed.

Director:

Shohei Imamura
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1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ken Ogata ... Iheiji Muraoka
Mitsuko Baishô Mitsuko Baishô ... Shiho
Chun-Hsiung Ko ... Wang
Norihei Miki ... Asanaga
Hiroyuki Konishi Hiroyuki Konishi ... Uehara
Sanshô Shinsui Sanshô Shinsui ... Chota
Tetta Sugimoto Tetta Sugimoto ... Genkichi
Taiji Tonoyama ... Shimada
Leonard Kuma Leonard Kuma ... Shop owner
Fujio Tokita ... Nishiyama
Minori Terada Minori Terada ... Hisamitsu
Chôichirô Kawarasaki Chôichirô Kawarasaki ... Kunikura
Mami Kumagaya Mami Kumagaya ... Kino
Shino Ikenami Shino Ikenami ... Tome
Maiko Kazama Maiko Kazama
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Storyline

A Japanese immigrant in 1901 Hong Kong wishes to become a simple shopkeeper. Fate soon intervenes, allowing him to mix adventure and fervent patriotism with greed.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy

Certificate:

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Official submission of Japan for the 'Best Foreign Language Film' category of the 60th Academy Awards in 1988. See more »

User Reviews

 
Zegen
6 October 2010 | by random_avengerSee all my reviews

Japanese director Shôhei Imamura may be best known for his cold and serious films, but over the course of his career he also tackled comedy, albeit in a very dark manner. One of his later films, Zegen tells the reality-based story of Iheiji Muraoka (Ken Ogata), a poor Japanese man who immigrates to Hong Kong at the turn of the 20th century to seek work in order to slowly regain the past glory of his family. Making a living as a barber at first, Muraoka is soon recruited to work as a spy against the Russians and develops an extremely strong sense of patriotism after to the example of his commander, Captain Uehara (Hiroyuki Konishi). After semi-accidentally becoming a human trafficker, he gets the idea of setting up brothels for the benefit of the Emperor, eventually expanding his businesses across South-East Asia. The changing political climate keeps causing troubles for his ventures, however.

Imamura tells the tale of the "Japanese Dream" of booming pre-war economics through exaggeration and satire: Muraoka's obsessive attempts of honouring his country are seen as fussy and comical and the constant presence of giggling prostitutes also strengthens the sense of laughableness that surrounds Imamura's trusted actor Ken Ogata in the lead role. On the other hand, the relationship of Iheiji's sensible lover Shiho (Mitsuko Baisho), also a prostitute, and a rivaling pimp Wang (Chun Hsiung Ko) brings a feel of sadness in the story, as does the general idea of girls leaving their homes or being kidnapped to work as prostitutes overseas, even if the characters are too keen on their daily bumblings to ever realize it. The satirical aspects become perhaps the most obvious during the final 15 minutes or so, when Muraoka has finally lost his grip on reality in the pressures of honour. At this point, he has moved from laughable to pathetic – Imamura's commentary on economy and patriotism replacing common sense is not left unclear.

True to his style, Imamura doesn't do much to cover up the omnipresent sexuality and casual nudity that defines the lives of the women in the brothels. The yellowish hues of many interior scenes create a mood of crampedness that is contrasted by beautiful outdoor shots of things like blizzards, sunsets or fog during Muraoka's trips outside his brothels. Besides the well-thought visuals, the music by Shinichirô Ikebe fits in the mood too, although used rather sparingly.

Even though the loud style of acting takes some time to get used to and the story feels a tad too long at over two hours, in the end I think the colourful performances and the period piece atmosphere are worth seeing for friends of Japanese cinema. Since the theme of uncontrollable urge for entrepreneurship is still very relevant too, Zegen can be recommended to those interested in Imamura's development as a director, even though personally I still prefer the more intimate Unholy Desire (1964), his cruel but excellent examination of emotional abuse in relationships.


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Details

Country:

Japan

Language:

Japanese

Release Date:

5 September 1987 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Zegen See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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