Archive for tatsuya nakadai

THE FACE OF ANOTHER (1966) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Japan, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2012 by goregirl

“Some masks come off some don’t.”

I am so pleased I invested in Criterion’s Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara set. In the set are Pitfall, The Face of Another and Woman in the Dunes. All three films are absolutely brilliant! I reviewed Woman in the Dunes for my Toho feature and since The Face of Another qualified decade-speaking I thought I would sneak it in. The Face of Another is not a horror film, so it will not qualify for the 1966 list. The Face of Another is based on a novel by Kôbô Abe who also wrote the screenplay. In fact all three of the films in the set are based on and have screenplays written by Kôbô Abe. The quote at the top of this review or even the title itself might have given you an inkling that The Face of Another is a story about identity; actually it is two intertwined stories about identity.

Mr. Okuyama a man whose face is badly scarred is seeing a psychiatrist to help him adapt to the life altering incident. The psychiatrist convinces Mr. Okuyama to give his consent to the creation of a mask that would allow him to integrate comfortably back into society. But his new identity begins to change him. A second story that runs parallel with Mr. Okuyama’s involves a young woman who suffers from a disfiguring scar on one side of her face. We are shown snippets of her daily existence and the hardships she is forced to endure.

The Face of Another is thought-provoking commentary on our identities; the way society treats us based on our appearances and the way we react based on that treatment. The young scarred woman of the story is actually a character in a film watched by our Mr. Okuyama. The young woman was scarred at Hiroshima; the nuclear radiation theme understandably worked its way into the plots of many Japanese films in the 1960s. The scarred young woman who remains nameless is a very empathetic character with a sad story that rather broke my heart. Mr. Okuyama is not a particularly sympathetic character. He is pretty bitter, angry and jealous. He isn’t a bad person he just makes himself difficult to be around. He is caustic towards his wife who he feels is intentionally avoiding him since the accident. He also suspects her of having an affair. She feels that it is he who has changed and alienated her. His occasional visits to his place of employment are awkward and uncomfortable. Although Mr. Okuyama’s The Invisible Man like bandages may make people uneasy; his salty observations don’t exactly make those around him feel any less anxious. Mr. Okuyama agrees to the making of the mask and it is decided that the face of another man will be used. Mr. Okuyama also agrees to be a guinea pig of sorts. The psychiatrist wants to document how the mask effects Mr. Okuyama. Unfortunately, Mr. Okuyama’s first instinct is to use his handsome new face to deceive and seduce his wife. All of the characters in The Face of Another are fascinating and the performances across the board are perfect.

The visuals in The Face of Another are incredible, unique and downright trippy! The psychiatrist’s office had the most ingenious set pieces I have ever laid eyes on! The medical diagrams on the glass walls, the rows of glass shelves full of synthetic body parts, giant body part sculptures that double as furniture. It is quite the mind blow man! Modern, cold and stark but also beautiful and alluring. I was particularly impressed with the finale where Mr. Okuyama and the psychiatrist meet and streams of faceless people walk between them. The Face of Another is full of visual symbolic references. A couple did mystify me slightly. What was the significance of the German-themed bar with the kitschy ceramic steins? Is it just an odd ball reference to World War II? What about the flying bed? Nonetheless you could not possibly have any complaints with the astounding visuals in The Face of Another.

Criterion’s Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara set is simply the cat’s ass! It is packed to the tits with bonuses (which I have not yet gotten around to) and more importantly all three films are freaking amazing. It was well worth the hearty investment! If you are interested in the Japanese new wave cinema of the sixties this trio is highly and enthusiastically recommended. The Face of Another is a slower-paced, symbolic, psychological, strange and highly visual journey with a gorgeous, amazing score and absolutely superb performances. The Face of Another gets my highest of recommendations…a perfect rating.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Hiroshi Teshigahara

Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Mikijiro Hira, Kyôko Kishida, Miki Irie, Eiji Okada, Minoru Chiaki, Hideo Kanze, Kunie Tanaka, Etsuko Ichihara, Eiko Muramatsu, Yoshie Minami, Hisashi Igawa, Kakuya Saeki

WHEN A WOMAN ASCENDS THE STAIRS (1960) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Japan, movies with tags , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2012 by goregirl

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs is my last review for Toho March. I would have liked to have reviewed more, but I think I highlighted a decent cross-section of genres with what I included. I have an unreasonable love of Toho monster movies. I really had no idea until recently of the non-monster masterpieces that came from the studio. I have discovered some amazing directors whose catalog I look forward to discovering. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs director Mikio Naruse is one of those aforementioned. After watching the beautiful and bittersweet When a Woman Ascends the Stairs I immediately added Naruse’s 1964 film Yearning and 1956 film Flowing to my library queue.

Keiko is head hostess of a Ginza Bar where appearances are everything. Keiko, known to the younger hostesses as Mama, is approaching the age where she will be forced to decide between marriage or owning her own hostess bar. Keiko struggles with her independence, aging, finances, love, morality, and a desire to honor her dead husband’s memory. Day after day she ascends that gloomy stairway and puts on her charming smile.

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs is a straight up drama, no samurai’s no mystery, no monsters. This is a stark, heart-breaking film. While this is not my first exposure to the concept of “hostesses” it is certainly the most extensive. Hostesses are paid to keep business men charmed and entertained. The men visit these bars in Ginza and pay top dollar to have an attractive young woman fawn all over him. The transaction is generally platonic, although sexual favors are not unheard of. Keiko is quite traditional in her manner and seems out of place in this line of work. Finding herself widowed at a young age, Keiko took work hostessing to make ends meet. Now years later she finds herself aging in this profession. In order to maintain appearances she rents an expensive apartment, buys fancy kimonos and exotic perfumes. Keiko is living beyond her means and business has not been good. Keiko still wears a traditional kimono instead of the modern North American style of clothing her cohorts don. She is made offers by men but refuses to be a kept woman. She wants to come about her money as honestly as she can. Keiko is betrayed by family, friends and lovers (potential and otherwise). The deceptively easy confidence Keiko maintains for the world becomes increasingly difficult to watch. I had incredible empathy for Keiko.

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs sets are practical and functional with the focus always squarely on Keiko. The loungy, smoky soundtrack was perfect. The lovely Hideko Takamine gives a stunning performance as Keiko. She absolutely broke my heart. As I mentioned in my opening paragraph I have added two other Naruse films to my queue. I specifically chose the first two I clicked on because I noticed that Takamine was in both. And than I clicked on a few more of Naruse’s titles and there she was again and again! It would seem the enchanting Takamine was a Naruse muse and is featured in several of his films. Just one more reason to check out this amazing director’s other work.

The Japanese cinema of the 1960s really is something very special. It is a cross-section of film I look forward to exploring more deeply. Anyone who can appreciate the type of performance that is nothing short of a revelation should definitely check out When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. Naruse’s sad, beautiful and frank portrait of a hostess in Ginza is absolutely sublime. Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4.5/5

Directed By: Mikio Naruse

Starring: Hideko Takamine, Masayuki Mori, Reiko Dan, Tatsuya Nakadai, Daisuke Katô, Ganjirô Nakamura, Eitarô Ozawa, Keiko Awaji

SAMURAI REBELLION (1967) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Japan, movies with tags , , , , , , on March 26, 2012 by goregirl

This is the final week of Toho March and I have five films from the studio still to review! I am not remotely capable of getting five reviews done in one week so I decided to review my two favorites of the five. There were a few of the newer Godzilla films I had never seen so I watched Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) and Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monster All Out Attack (2001) (bloody hell that is a long title!!). I enjoyed both of these films quite a bit but I figured I covered enough monster movies. Deciding between Sengoku Yaro (1963) and When A Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960) was tough. Both films were amazing, but I could only choose one so I went with When A Woman Ascends the Stairs which will be my final review for the feature. Samurai Rebellion was the one film I knew I had to review. This was my favourite of the lot I reviewed during Toho March. Samurai Rebellion is like Romeo and Juliet, but with Samurais! An enthralling drama, an engaging love story and Toshirô Mifune kills a shitload of dudes! The film was produced by Mifune’s own production company (Mifune Productions Co) along with Toho. There was an awkward interview with director Masaki Kobayahi in the DVD special features. The director tells a story of how he was able to magnify Mifune’s voice. According to the director, Mifune was a well-known mumbler and was difficult to hear. He also suggested that Mifune was distracted by his financial involvement in the film. I got the feeling from this interview that Kobayashi didn’t think very highly of Mifune. In any case, I have seen several of Mifune’s performances and I would rank this among his best. Mifune is an absolute force to be reckoned with in Samurai Rebellion! Despite whatever issues he had with the actor, Kobayashi created something beautiful, tragic, violent and unforgettable.

Aging swordsman Isaburo Sasahara has been in a loveless arranged marriage with a miserable woman. He hopes for better for his two grown sons. Preparing for his retirement he passes on his responsibilities to his son Yogoro. Isaburo’s clan lord throws a curve ball when he requests Yogoro marry his mistress who despite baring him a son, has displeased him. Isaburo resists on his son’s behalf but Yogoro agrees to accept the woman. The stunning Ichi turns out to be a lovely, kind woman and the two fall deeply in love and have a child together. Isaburo is inspired and renewed by their love but once more his clan lord threatens his family’s happiness. When the male child of the lord’s current mistress dies suddenly, he sends for Ichi to come take her place as mother of his heir. The long-henpecked Isaburo has finally found his line in the sand and refuses his clan lord much to the chagrin of his wife and her family. With his son Yogoro at his side, they await the inevitable response of their clan.

Samurai Rebellion’s great story is complimented by one perfectly set up shot after another.  There are countless symmetrical shots where people are placed as though they were set pieces. I included a shot of the stoic wedding ceremony and the clan members gathered in the courtyard of Isaburo’s home; there are many shots I did not include of family and clan gatherings that also illustrate the symmetrical. I know little about the technical aspects of film making but Samurai Rebellion seemed perfect. Every single aspect of Samurai Rebellion is masterfully executed. The fight sequences are fantastic and some of the slickest I’ve seen in this genre. The love story is touching without making me want to vomit. The performances from the entire cast are stellar. As already mentioned, Toshirô Mifune, who plays Isaburo Sasahara is absolutely superb. Isaburo is admittedly henpecked, but he is a good man who loves his children. When he has finally had enough and rebels against his clan we root for him whole-heartedly. Also notable, is the lovely Yôko Tsukasa who plays Ichi. While Ichi’s manner is quiet and gentle she is firm in her resolve. It is Ichi that is really the story’s centerpiece. Without Ichi’s forced entry into the Sasahara family and her genuine love for Yogoro there would be no Samurai Rebellion.

While Samurai Rebellion may be set during the 1700s, in a time when Feudal Lords ruled, its story is a timeless one. Isaburo rebels in the name of love, respect for his fellow man and making one’s government representatives accountable for their actions. Isaburo is a man who never questioned authority or even his strong-willed, joyless wife. He is genuinely disgusted in his lord’s abuse of power and literally calls for his head! There is a rich complexity and yet a simplicity to Samurai Rebellion’s story. Like every aspect of this film, it is perfectly balanced.

Fans of the Samurai genre will likely enjoy Samurai Rebellion as much as I did. The rich history and culture of the Japanese is always fascinating. Add a beautiful love story, a dash of politics, some killer fight sequences, and serve with stylish flare in glorious black and white! Absolutely delicious! I don’t know if I was feeling particularly sentimental the night I watched Samurai Rebellion but I absolutely loved it, and I’m giving it my highest of recommendations; a perfect rating.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Masaki Kobayashi

Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Yôko Tsukasa, Gô Katô, Tatsuyoshi Ehara, Etsuko Ichihara, Isao Yamagata, Tatsuya Nakadai, Shigeru Kôyama, Michiko Otsuka, Tatsuo Matsumura, Masao Mishima, Jun Hamamura