Archive for the ‘Japanese films’ Tag

Genocide (1968)   1 comment


A US Air Force carrier armed with an H-bomb runs into a swarm of insects and loses control over a small Japanese island. Before the plane augers into the atoll, the crew of three parachute to safety. Naturally, the Air Force send men to search for the airmen and the bomb, which has gone missing as well. Oops.

Found it!

On the island, Air Force officers find two of the airmen dead and a third seriously injured. The arrest Joji (Yûsuke Kawazu) for murder. He had a watch on him belonging to one of the dead men. Despite evidence that the men were eaten alive, the authorities plan to ship Joji to Tokyo for trial. Only Joji’s wife, Yukari (Emi Shindô) and his boss Dr. Nagumo (Keisuke Sonoi) believe Joji. Meanwhile, the third airman, Charlie (Chico Roland) regains consciousness and rants about insects. Since that happens to be Dr. Nagumo’s specialty, he perks right up. Dr. Nagumo, Yukari, and Charlie’s doctor team up to find the rogue bugs and try to convince the seriously nasty Air Force guys to listen to Charlie. In their defense, Charlie has recently fallen off a cliff so his version of events is less than reliable.

Charlie hates sneeze guards.

Bad things keep happening to Charlie. Annabelle, Joji’s paramour and a less than stellar individual, kidnaps Charlie and tortures him using her pet insects. This does wonders for Charlie’s already fragile mental state. Annabelle’s rationale for being such a sick twist is that she spent part of World War II in a German concentration camp so she has the right to abuse and torment whoever she likes.

Come. My insect dungeon awaits.

Back among the sane, Joji escapes, the Air Force guys refuse to listen to anyone, and Charlie runs amok. He gets away from Annabelle and steals her magic revolver managing to squeeze fourteen shots out of it. I counted. Things go downhill from there. The insects Dr. Nagumo suspected all along run rampant over the island and it’s clear that if they’re allowed to leave the island, all hell will break loose. Humans will never win against an army of different types of insects who have joined forces. It’s at this point when people start suggesting that the H-bomb isn’t such a bad thing after all. Will they or won’t they? Only director Kazui Nihonmatsu and Edward Teller know for sure.

teller toy
You got chocolate on my isotope!

I enjoyed Genocide. Wow. What an odd thing to say. The plot made sense even if it was filled with stereotypes. That’s not an unprecedented statement. I mean, Gone with the Wind makes sense as a film even though the characterizations aren’t exactly modern. It looked good. Shizuo Hirase was the cinematographer on this film and Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell and he makes it look good. There’s also a trippy paint scene during Charlie’s hallucination sequence done by Keiji Kawakami and Shun Suganuma. Genocide has a distinctive point of view and features insects that kill so I’m in. I watched this on the When Horror Came to Shochiku Criterion box set. It looks fabulous.


Rashomon (1950)   Leave a comment


I’m not sure why, but sometimes seeing foreign films feels like homework to me. It shouldn’t because I’ve seen a few (Rififi, Das Boot, The Killer) I’ve really enjoyed, but there it is. I watched this on a computer and I cannot wait to see it on the big screen.


A woodcutter, a commoner, and a priest take shelter from a torrential rain storm and tell the story of a horrific crime.

The men describe how a samurai (Masayuki Mori), his wife (Machiko Kyo), and a bandit (Toshiro Mifune) meet tragically in a lonely clearing in the woods. One man dies and the resulting trial reveals a great deal about the people involved and much larger issues. In a method which would later be known as the Rashomon effect, each of the participants tells his side of the story and the audience is left to discern the truth.

Rashomon played in only a few theatres outside of Japan during its initial release, but introduced the western world to its director, Akira Kurosawa (Yojimbo, Ran). Kurosawa and his cinematographer, Kazuo Miyagawa (Ugetsu, Yojimbo) made a beautiful film about an ugly crime and in so doing brought Japanese cinema to the world’s attention.

The actors tell the different versions of the tale using every part of them. The performances are feral and nuanced at the same time. These actors pull feelings out of their souls. I couldn’t look away. Kyo (Gate of Hell, Ugetsu), as the samurai’s wife shows tremendous range and Mifune (Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood) looks like he’s spring-loaded. He’s all energy and extremes which gives his bandit/sociopath character an almost child-like quality. The priest and the wood cutter, Minoru Chiaki and Takashi Shimura, had long and prestigious careers in Japanese cinema as well, acting in kaiju films, detective stories, and Shakespearean epics and give wonderful performances here. You see the pain in their faces as they recount the terrible crime to the unfeeling commoner Kichijiro Ueda. Rashomon touches on morality, shame, the place of women in society, and the very nature of man. That it does so with such sparse dialogue (Japanese with subtitles), few locations and sets, and seven characters, serves as a testament to the acting, direction, and writing in this absolutely incredible film. I was blown away. Watch this film as soon as you can.


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