Kyoko Kagawa

Kyoko Kagawa

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Tokyo Story Review


Essential
The works of director Yasujiro Ozu, who worked for many decades before his death in 1963, embody a certain classical approach to filmmaking in Japan. His films are slow-moving, meditative, and austerely stylized, and they return again and again to the same themes: the life of the family, the interaction between generations, the basic sadness of life and the ways in which honest people can overcome it. His style is so complete in its serenity and his output so monumental that it took a whole generation of younger directors, led by his one-time student Shohei Imamura, to react against him, as though Ozu's influence required a Herculean effort to work out of the Japanese film industry's system. And if cameras were to move, if the underside of life in Japan was to be portrayed on the screen, if violence and sex were to find their way into that country's cinema, it had to be. Ozu's body of work stood in opposition.

Because of the contemplative nature of Ozu's work, Western audiences strive to find something Eastern and spiritual in them. But Ozu's true greatness lies in exactly the opposite quality; below the Zen-like peace of their surfaces, the films tell stories as universal as any ever have. His 1953 Tokyo Story is the classic example: an aging couple travel to Tokyo to visit their children, but find that their children have little time for them when they arrive. Traveling back to their small town, the mother becomes sick and dies, and her surviving spouse and children come to terms with her loss.

Continue reading: Tokyo Story Review

Madadayo Review


Very Good
It seems only fitting that Akira Kurosawa's last film (which he wrote and directed) be an homage to teaching. After all, he inspired many of today's respected directors and is taught in film schools internationally. Madadayo is a sweetly overlong portrayal of an interconnected community whose center is a beloved professor.

Madadayo opens with a Professor (Tatsuo Matsumura) announcing to his class that after 30 years of teaching, he is now choosing to write in retirement. The young sing his praises and previous alumni move the Professor and his wife into a new home. The pair is as hospitable to everyone as if they were children returning from college.

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Red Beard Review


Bad
I'd never heard of Akira Kurosawa's Red Beard before the Criterion DVD showed up in the mail, but judging from the cover and the talent appearing in it, I expected a swashbuckling samurai flick -- maybe something about a red bearded pirate?

Would that I had done my research. Red Beard is a major miss in Kurosawa's distinguished career, a three-hour opus that can be best described as a protracted retelling of General Hospital in 19th century Japan.

Continue reading: Red Beard Review

Tokyo Story Review


Essential
The works of director Yasujiro Ozu, who worked for many decades before his death in 1963, embody a certain classical approach to filmmaking in Japan. His films are slow-moving, meditative, and austerely stylized, and they return again and again to the same themes: the life of the family, the interaction between generations, the basic sadness of life and the ways in which honest people can overcome it. His style is so complete in its serenity and his output so monumental that it took a whole generation of younger directors, led by his one-time student Shohei Imamura, to react against him, as though Ozu's influence required a Herculean effort to work out of the Japanese film industry's system. And if cameras were to move, if the underside of life in Japan was to be portrayed on the screen, if violence and sex were to find their way into that country's cinema, it had to be. Ozu's body of work stood in opposition.

Because of the contemplative nature of Ozu's work, Western audiences strive to find something Eastern and spiritual in them. But Ozu's true greatness lies in exactly the opposite quality; below the Zen-like peace of their surfaces, the films tell stories as universal as any ever have. His 1953 Tokyo Story is the classic example: an aging couple travel to Tokyo to visit their children, but find that their children have little time for them when they arrive. Traveling back to their small town, the mother becomes sick and dies, and her surviving spouse and children come to terms with her loss.

Continue reading: Tokyo Story Review

The Lower Depths (1957) Review


OK
"If work made life easy, I'd do it." So says one of the residents of the flophouse that serves as the setting for Akira Kurosawa's 1957 adaptation of Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths. In fact, some of the residents here do work - there's a tinker who toils away fruitlessly and who ends up selling his tools to buy sake, for instance - but like all the others present, it seems there's little hope of an easy life for him. These others include a fallen samurai, the tinker's dying wife, an alcoholic actor, a prostitute, and, for the first long night of the film's action, a mysterious pilgrim who brings a humanist sensibility to these lower depths before departing the very next day.

Gorky's play was set in tsarist Russia a few years before the revolution, and Kurosawa finds a parallel for this desperate time in mid-19th century Edo (later renamed Tokyo), an era known to be one of great prosperity. This general prosperity is a cruel joke for his characters, remaining as out of reach as the temples that rise up on the rim of the crater-like valley in which the flophouse, piled against the valley wall, quietly goes about its business of deteriorating while the lives inside do the same. Is there hope of a better life? Another character has an answer for this: "People never do anything but repeat themselves."

Continue reading: The Lower Depths (1957) Review

After Life Review


Weak
In Japan, the dead wait for a week in limbo, as a heavenly film crew asks them to pick just one memory from their lives that they want to take with them to the next.

Sounds interesting... but it ain't. After Life is so boring despite its intriguing possibilities, mainly because the bulk of the film involves these angel-types figuring out how best to make short films re-enacting these fond memories. Say what? Baffling doesn't equal fascinating, guys.

Continue reading: After Life Review

Kyoko Kagawa

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Madadayo Movie Review

Madadayo Movie Review

It seems only fitting that Akira Kurosawa's last film (which he wrote and directed) be...

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