Japan

Flowing/ Nagareru (Mikio Naruse, Japan, 1956)

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flowing

My first Naruse film and  it is a revelation: an exquisitely beautiful movie. The river flows at the beginning and the end. Time moves on. But the world is changing. Business gets the upper hand. Family helps but at a price. A restaurant will take the place of the geisha house. There is no room for geishas in the modern world except on the other, grubbier side, of the river. The performances are very moving, with Haruko Sugimura, the coarse and unfeeling daughter from Tokyo Story (Yasujirō Ozu, Japan, 1953), here a stand-out as a drunken fifty-year old geisha. The compositions are a work of art; and the end, where the maid knows all that the characters sense but don’t yet fully realize, made me well up a little.

José Arroyo

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (Ten Shimoyama, Japan, 2005)

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shinobi

Kids of all  ages should enjoy this story of teenagers who fall in love but belong to different warrior clans. It’s like a Romeo and Juliette story but here each member of the family has special warrior skills (superpowers really). The Lord whom they serve decides they are too powerful and sets them in conflict against each other with the aim of wiping them out. The protagonists struggle to reconcile their love for one  another with their loyalty to their family and clan; sadly, the latter wins out. A difference between at least some Eastern and Western cultures is the way that this narrative plays out in narrative: in my experience, in movies from the East the protagonists always, ultimately, finally, and in spite of any number of always motivated rebellions, bow down to authority. It is worth mentioning here the superb special effects that can now be created on smaller budgets. Hollywood better wake up or it will soon be playing on an even playing field and start losing. It’s losing now. With Yukie Nakama, Jô Odagiri, Tomoka Kurotani

José Arroyo