Carlotta: Coffret Kijû Yoshida & Eros + Massacre

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Stefan Andersson
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Carlotta: Coffret Kijû Yoshida & Eros + Massacre

#1 Post by Stefan Andersson » Tue Dec 18, 2007 9:16 am

A post on the DVDClassik forum says Carlotta Films have announced an 8-DVD box of EROS+MASSACRE and other Kiju Yoshida titles. Hopefully it´s the 200+ something full version of the film.

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Steven H
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#2 Post by Steven H » Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:17 am

Holy Cow! This is some of the best DVD news EVER for me. A fellow Yoshida fan, and all around good guy, has a blog called wildgrounds dedicated to interesting Japanese cinema, and he has the skinny. According to their blogpost, Carlotta are following the same release style as Yoshida had in Japan, with a box containing his first six films (Good For Nothing, Blood is Dry, Bitter End of a Sweet Night, Akitsu Springs, 18 Who Stir Up A Storm, and Escape From Japan) following it with a five film collection of some of his amazing mid 60s melodramas (Story Written With Water, Woman of the Lake, The Affair, Flame and Women, and Affair in the Snow). Also, it mentions Eros Plus Massacre but lists both running times. Hopefully it contains both.

No word yet on his other late 60s, 70s, and 80s films. They're among his most well known, so I'm sure they'll be coming. I was more worried about his early stuff getting attention, and WHAM! Seriously great news.

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HerrSchreck
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#3 Post by HerrSchreck » Fri Dec 21, 2007 5:55 pm

All the way up here in NYC I can hear ambulances screaming down the eastern seaboard to the Carolinas to resuscitate Steven, who is flopping around in near-epileptic kaniptions of ecstasy after thunking his head on the ceiling after reading the above post.

Seriously excellent news. While not totally orgasmic over EROS +, I am fascinated and intrigued enough (and thrilled by the visual chops) to want to see more.

Still reeling from Jissuji Akio's MUJO. This film is like a combination of Khlalatozov/Uresevsky, the Dreyer/Mate' of JOAN, and the early Ophuls of LIBELEI thrown in for flavor. Monstrous use of the full frame and the moving camera of...... nothing else in the world. (when brothers & sisters Artfully Fuck it's time for some new grammar anyhoo I guess..)

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Steven H
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#4 Post by Steven H » Sat Dec 22, 2007 12:33 am

kuma52 wrote:Great news for Yoshida fans, its the entire work of Yoshida being available on March 2008. For Eros it's the long version.
Not quite "entire". Still missing most of the films in his 69-73 box set that contained Eros Plus Massacre (maybe these will be announced?) and his 80s stuff (not to mention the Ozu documentary he did, that I haven't seen.)

My head *did* hit the ceiling. Still, as excited as I am, it's mostly so I'll finally know what the hell is going on, specifically, in about a dozen films I've seen numerous times without subs. But with Yoshida, you only have to know the bare minimum of plot to get some serious enjoyment out of it. Unbelievably strong visuals in every single film of his, just gorgeous stuff. It's too bad a french subbed release means dick in regards to US/UK exposure (ok maybe a little, but still.)

HerrSchreck, have you had a chance to see Yoshida's Coup d'etat? Full frame black and white glory (and a GREAT score.) Probably Mikuni's best role playing the doomed fascist Ikki.

Also, Mujo is amazing. This has "Future MOC Heavy Hitter" written all over it.

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HerrSchreck
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#5 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Dec 24, 2007 9:53 am

Steven H wrote:HerrSchreck, have you had a chance to see Yoshida's Coup d'etat?
Sorry steve, I missed this.. but the answer is no.

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Arn777
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#6 Post by Arn777 » Fri Apr 04, 2008 8:03 am

These are supposed to come out next wednesday, I'll be in Paris on Thursday and plan to get them all. Is there a possibilty Criterion relaeses some?
There is also a full retrospective at Centre Pompidou.

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shirobamba
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#7 Post by shirobamba » Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:49 am

Link for Carlotta's website dedicated to the Centre retro and the DVD releases.

Carlotta receives massive public funding for their Yoshida releases. Given the relative obsurity of Yoshida's work in the West I doubt that such a large scale project is possible on the basis of DVD sales only. Not even for Criterion. But perhaps the media buzz will spill over from France and pave the way for an english-friendly release of a keywork of the Japanese New Wave like Eros + Massacre. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

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Fan-of-Kurosawa
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#8 Post by Fan-of-Kurosawa » Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:23 am

Great! Another important Japanese movie that comes out in France (with no eng subs, as usual) and is absent in the English speaking world.

So now we can add Yoshida to the list of Japanese directors that are well represented in France and not in the USA or UK.

To remind you: Hideo Gosha (we only have 2 movies, they have 18), Mizoguchi (we don't have anyhting before 1950, they have numerous from the 1930s and 1940s), Uchida (we have nothing, they have 3), Kinoshita (we only have 2 movies, they have 6)

I wonder for how long this trend will continue. :evil:

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shirobamba
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#9 Post by shirobamba » Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:27 pm

France has a long cultural relationship with Japan. And it has a lot of public institutions for funding cinema culture in France (the CNC being the most important).

And Yoshida has a special relationship with France. His last two films have been coproduced/financed in France, and French literature and philosophy had a descisive influence on him early in his life.

Wildgrounds.com has a TV interview with Yoshida, where he talks about all that.

First review of Carlotta's Yoshida boxes are online, featuring 379 (!) screengrabs: Box 1 - Box 2

Plus: an interview with Carlotta about their further release plans for Japanese cinema classics (Everything in French)

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Michael Kerpan
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#10 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:51 pm

Fan-of-Kurosawa wrote:I wonder for how long this trend will continue. :evil:
Forever. (not joking -- France has always been more interested in Japanese cinema than the English-speaking world has).

Those Kinoshita films are pretty expensive (at FNAC).

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Fan-of-Kurosawa
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#11 Post by Fan-of-Kurosawa » Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:35 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:Those Kinoshita films are pretty expensive (at FNAC).
True. And amazon.fr (which is usually slightly cheaper) does not carry them anymore. Are they out of print? Already? According to Amazon.fr, the box set came out in October of 2007. So it went out of print in 6 months? (and it wasn't any kind of "limited" edition).

Pity because I might have bought it. Of course I already have 2 out of the 6 films and my french are very "rusty" but I want to see the other 4 films. And the way they are going in the States and in the UK we will never see them with eng subs.

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domino harvey
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#12 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:37 am

Amazon.fr tends to stop stocking a lot of French titles that are in print. I wonder why

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Michael Kerpan
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#13 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Apr 11, 2008 9:34 am

Fan-of-Kurosawa wrote:
Michael Kerpan wrote:Those Kinoshita films are pretty expensive (at FNAC).
Of course I already have 2 out of the 6 films and my French are very "rusty" but I want to see the other 4 films. And the way they are going in the States and in the UK we will never see them with Eng subs.
I found River Fuefuki pretty dreadful. Your mileage may vary.

I know nothing at all about Immortal Love. I would like to see Children of Nagasaki (for historical reasons) -- despite my overall coolness towards Kinoshita's work.

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backstreetsbackalright
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#14 Post by backstreetsbackalright » Sun Apr 13, 2008 6:42 am

So jealous.

Has anyone inquired after a parallel Criterion product? Although really, this feels like a really great fit for Masters of Cinema.

gelich
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Coffret Kiju Yoshida

#15 Post by gelich » Thu Apr 24, 2008 6:44 am

I see conflicting information as to whether or not volume 1 of the new Carlotta set of Kiju Yoshida films has English subtitles. English subtitles are indicated here.

A lack of English subtitles is indicated here.

Does anyone know which is the case? I think I can guess the answer, and it isn't the one I'm hoping for....
Thanks.

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Don Lope de Aguirre
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#16 Post by Don Lope de Aguirre » Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:06 am

The answer, I believe, is no.
Malheureusement très peu connu, le cinéaste n'a toujous pas eu à ce jour le droit à une quelconque sortie DVD avec des sous-titres ne serait-ce que en anglais.

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shirobamba
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#17 Post by shirobamba » Thu Apr 24, 2008 12:24 pm

Just received the 2 Yoshida boxes and the Eros + Massacre SE:
definitely NO ENGLISH SUBS on any of them!

Sorry!

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Hopscotch
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#18 Post by Hopscotch » Mon Apr 28, 2008 8:58 pm

So I did a quick search and, unless I missed something brutally obvious, I didn't find much helpful information as to whether or not a satisfactory version of Eros exists on DVD. Could someone kindly point the way?
(if the way exists, that is)

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zedz
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#19 Post by zedz » Wed Jun 04, 2008 12:54 am

Fantastic sets: great transfers of every film with useful intros by the filmmaker. French subs only, but I can make do. I doubt any UK or US label is going to port them (though this would be an excellent opportunity for Facets to redeem themselves). I’m working through these chronologically at the moment. So here are my first impressions.

Good-for-Nothing

Like Oshima’s early films, this follows the youth film / Sun Tribe model but pushes it to extremes. Yoshida’s visual style is compositionally straight, even classical (great B&W widescreen), though he gets some superb, distinctive compositions with the wide frame, especially in the central beach scenes. The most interesting thing stylistically is the camera movement and dynamic cuts. All of these early films have headlong storytelling, and the pulpy storylines give up, without much prodding, a huge flood of inter-generational resentment (something the French New Wave took most of the sixties to build up to). There’s also a telling sidelong glance at the AMPO protests, something Oshima also couldn’t ignore. The end of the film seems like a very pointed nod to that of Breathless, but that would mean Yoshida was working at a furious pace. This film premiered at the beginning of July 1960 and Godard’s (if IMDB is to be believed) was first screened in Japan at the very end of March (and in Paris the same month).

Blood Is Dry

This film ups the pace of Good-for-Nothing and ups its satirical content as well, becoming almost a deepest black riff on Masumura’s Giants and Toys. A salaryman becomes a national figure (and advertising icon, for life insurance) after having failed to pull off a very public suicide. Everyone wants to project their own meaning on the man’s action, and nobody wants to hear his own explanation. The film has an incredible, urgent first ten minutes (handheld travelling shots, fragmentary scenes) and only relaxes slightly thereafter. In the middle of the film is a great (if somewhat marginal) nightclub scene in which Yoshida tries out some boldly disjunctive editing, flip-flopping between two matched views of the singer with each bar of the music.

End of a Sweet Night

Similarly impressive and concise, this film (based on Stendahl, according to Yoshida’s intro – these are extremely brief but generally offer one or two hugely valuable insights) features what would have been the most venal ‘hero’ yet presented on film, had Oshima not got in first with Cruel Story of Youth (Chuck Tatum’s a teddy bear in comparison). He’s a guy who will do anything to get ahead, including prostituting a casual acquaintance (who turns out to have more self-possession and self-esteem than he thought) and, when that fails, prostituting himself. Yoshida’s visual style is still comparatively trad, but rock solid and wonderfully expressive. The leads’ unhealthy ‘relationship’ is sublimated into furious velodrome circuits, and there’s a superb interlude on a lake that looks forward to A Story Written With Water.

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the dancing kid
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#20 Post by the dancing kid » Wed Jun 04, 2008 8:56 am

zedz wrote:Good-for-Nothing

The end of the film seems like a very pointed nod to that of Breathless, but that would mean Yoshida was working at a furious pace. This film premiered at the beginning of July 1960 and Godard’s (if IMDB is to be believed) was first screened in Japan at the very end of March (and in Paris the same month).
The way it happened was that the lead actor had seen 'Breathless' on one of his days off from filming and then told Yoshida about it. They decided it would make a good ending to their own film, so they rewrote that scene at the last minute. Yoshida actually wasn't able to see Breathless until he had finished his own debut.

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Steven H
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#21 Post by Steven H » Wed Jun 04, 2008 4:30 pm

zedz wrote:Fantastic sets: great transfers of every film with useful intros by the filmmaker. French subs only, but I can make do. I doubt any UK or US label is going to port them (though this would be an excellent opportunity for Facets to redeem themselves). I’m working through these chronologically at the moment. So here are my first impressions.
Great job on the early Yoshida capsules! I'm looking forward to reading more, especially when you get to my favorite, Story Written With Water. Maybe more than any of his early films, the imagery in Blood Is Dry, the billboards, really got to me after a couple of viewings.

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zedz
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#22 Post by zedz » Wed Jun 04, 2008 4:30 pm

the dancing kid wrote:
zedz wrote:Good-for-Nothing

The end of the film seems like a very pointed nod to that of Breathless, but that would mean Yoshida was working at a furious pace. This film premiered at the beginning of July 1960 and Godard’s (if IMDB is to be believed) was first screened in Japan at the very end of March (and in Paris the same month).
The way it happened was that the lead actor had seen 'Breathless' on one of his days off from filming and then told Yoshida about it. They decided it would make a good ending to their own film, so they rewrote that scene at the last minute. Yoshida actually wasn't able to see Breathless until he had finished his own debut.
Thanks! So now I can stop working on my theory about the time travel machine. It's a pretty impressive quote considering he hadn't seen the film. It must have made quite an impression on Tsugawa if he could describe it so vividly.

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zedz
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#23 Post by zedz » Fri Jun 06, 2008 7:27 pm

Akitsu Hot Springs

A sublime film. It's not surprising that Carlotta / CGP have chosen this as one of the 'showcase' titles for the retro. Good as the previous features were, this is a really major work, and one of those films, like Night and Fog in Japan, that showed early on just how ambitious and wide-ranging the Japanese New Wave would be. Ironically, that’s in part because this is in some respects one of the most ‘traditional’ New Wave films: it’s a literary adaptation and a star vehicle. Despite its heritage trappings, the film is in fact a smart, subversive, idiosyncratic masterwork.

It’s Yoshida’s first colour film, but his use of it is very subdued - wood and earth tones, the grey and white of stone and snow (and cherry blossom) – bright colours are used sparingly for picking out details (such as a scarf), not for general eye-popping. His eccentric mature visual style is probably about 50% there: the asymmetry, the unexpected switch to high or low angles, the use of extreme long shots. He’s a filmmaker who really does think of the camera in three dimensions: potential positions for a shot are not just frontal, or in a linear relationship to the action (eye-level lateral tracks): the same event can be (sometimes simultaneously) presented from above, below, near or far (in later films his abandonment of the rules of framing would also come into play), but there’s a poetic coherence to the way in which sequences are built up from these disparate fragments.

I can’t think of many other filmmakers who use long shots with the same facility as Yoshida. He’ll often withdraw to a distance in the middle of action or emotion, so we’re straining forward to see an expression or gesture. (I think Peckinpah also uses this technique.) The narrative ‘eye’ is unstable and distanced yet paradoxically intimate – omniscient (those off-centre high angles) and subjective at the same time. Somehow this allows us to be swept up in the characters’ world but also coolly aware of the authors’: emotional and analytical is another relevant paradox. The climax of the film is almost entirely conveyed in extreme long shot. One of the points of the staging is that the two characters can barely see one another, they’re just tiny figures in the distance, but Yoshida also stays back when they get together, so we invest ourselves in the characters’ situation (partly because we’re reading the small figures so intently) without the big obvious emotional cues of melodramatic closeups.

The film’s stylistic paradoxes are part and parcel of its key conceptual one: it’s an anti-romantic romance. Everything is set up for a grand, cinematic love affair - the actors, the characters and their mutual passion, the set-up, the setting, the period – but it never quite happens, and the romance isn’t sublimated into the drama of the forces keeping them apart (which also aren’t really there), or a musing on the wily workings of fate (again, not particularly at issue). Instead, we’re left with the much more awkward and unusual story of the two people involved, or not involved, as the case may be.

The romance / anti-romance dilemma is beautifully summed up by the extraordinarily over-the-top romantic score by Hayashi Hiraku (composer of choice for Oshima and Shindo as well). It’s as swooningly exquisite as the location (at times somewhat reminiscent of Herrmann’s Vertigo score, at least to my addled brain), even when the scenes it accompanies are bitter or cruel. But this is no mismatch – the score seems to be an ironic commentary on the action (or the action is an ironic commentary on the score), a constant reminder of what could have been.

Early Imamura main-man Nagato Hirayuki is great as the shifting, shifty male lead, but this is Mariko Okada’s film all the way (she also produced and designed the costumes), and she’s just wonderful. This would be the start of a brilliant collaboration with Yoshida. The interview with her included on the disc is brief but extremely valuable. She still gets emotional when she thinks what a golden opportunity this role (her hundredth) was for her, and she goes on to explain how Ozu, Kinoshita and Yoshida differed in their direction of actors. It’s the kind of revealing technical nitty-gritty that DVD supplements all too rarely touch on.

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zedz
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#24 Post by zedz » Sun Jun 08, 2008 7:16 pm

Rounding up the first coffret:

18 Who Stir Up a Storm

This is the Yoshida I’ve probably liked least so far, but it’s by no means bad, and parts of it are excellent. In his intro, Yoshida identifies it as his attempt to create a film with a collective protagonist, which is an extremely difficult thing to pull off, if you consider a collective protagonist as distinct from an ensemble of individuals (as you get in Seven Samurai or various Altmans). When I’ve seen it work, as in Jansco’s Red and the White, and maybe Battleship Potemkin, it’s in the context of political and historical analysis; here, in the context of a more traditional, character-driven narrative, the titular gang are just an undifferentiated mass that hampers Yoshida’s mise en scene.

The second half of the film, in which the storylines resolve into smaller, character-focussed units (the relationship between the leads; the plight of Seiichi) works much better. Not obliged to accommodate more than a dozen characters in samey longshots, Yoshida discovers some amazing visual effects (a startling post-noir assault; trademark beautiful / threatening waters; semi-documentary footage at a baseball game; a lonely, rainy wedding). Even the group scenes are more dynamic: there’s a fantastic tracking shot that follows a brawl from behind a ramshackle fence, across a road and out into open ground.

Escape from Japan

Yoshida’s back in colour - and how! This film is much more ‘pop’ than Akitsu Hot Springs, at times almost approaching Suzuki. Visually, it’s his most strikingly decentred yet, the diversity of shots being pushed even further than Akitsu Hot Springs (there’s some particularly impressive, strategic early use of the zoom lens) and the staging is getting ever more idiosyncratic (a bicycle being used as a surreal prop in a death scene, for example). This extends to the use of sound, which is bled out, echoed or wiped out with aircraft noise at various points. It’s hard to think of many other early 60s films that look or sound as modern as this.

Story-wise, it works from a pulpy template (the heist-gone-awry leading to the couple-on-the-lam), but it’s worked over by making the male lead (a wannabe pop singer) extremely annoying. It’s clearly a delibrerate strategy: I’m talking atomic-level, Jerry Lewis annoying. He’s goofy and hysterical, yet placed in the middle of this increasingly grim noir tale. Somehow it works brilliantly, and there’s also a superbly clashing, discordant score (Takemitsu, great as ever) and sarcastic sideswipes at the Tokyo Olympics.

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zedz
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#25 Post by zedz » Mon Jun 09, 2008 9:12 pm

A Story Written with Water

StevenH’s favourite. Now that I’ve seen it with subtitles (albeit French ones) I feel in a better position to comment on it, so here goes.

Good as the films up to this point were, this is the one where Yoshida takes flight and ends up in undiscovered country. Akitsu Hot Springs could just about have been made by some other genius; this film could only have come from Yoshida.

The incest theme was a mainstay of the Japanese New Wave - in fact, it’s all but unavoidable in Imamura’s films – but it’s treated with uncommon delicacy here. Until the last twenty minutes or so it’s possible for an obtuse viewer to come up with other explanations for the traces of Shizuo’s obsession (his reluctance to marry, his concern over other men’s attentions to his mother, his constant flashbacks to his sick father), and that obsession is sublimated into the film’s obsession with Mariko Okada. Just look at the care with which she’s presented and framed throughout: her first appearance, with that constant return to the beauty of her delicate nape; the great movie-star entrance when a train passes by to reveal a parasol (pay close attention to that particular fetiche), which lifts to reveal her perfect countenance.

Yoshida’s idiosyncratic camera placement and movement is fully developed here (although he’d push some aspects of his signature style even further in later works). The lowering roller door in the opening shots practically announces the extreme blocking and masking of the frame that Yoshida will use throughout. Some shots are framed so that black shapes block off one or both sides of the widescreen frame, creating temporary, moveable academy ratios, and characters can be deployed anywhere within those frames: the extreme edges, the remote distance, upside-down. He’s also constantly experimenting with negative space, so that the placement of figures is only one of the variables he’s playing with to create a gallery of unexpected compositions.

The film, and Shizuo the protagonist, are plagued with flashbacks, and he transitions to some of them with amazing swirls of the camera; others with mysterious direct cuts or deceptive reverse angles. The underlying story is dense rather than obscure, but the storytelling is so nimble (many major events are elided, and timeframes have to be inferred) that you need to be constantly interpreting and readjusting. The whole film has a wonderful air of mystery that is much more down to style than (lack of) substance: marginal shots linger for no obvious plot-related reason; character motivations are ambiguous even if their actions aren’t; the eerie, minimal score.

The bravura sequence comes near the end, after Shizuo’s car accident, in the form of his eerie, slow-motion death-haunted dream. There’s a particularly amazing ‘shot’ in which Yumiko (his wife) and Shizuko (his mother) pass in single file before his eyes again and again and again. But the final sequence, one of Yoshida’s highly charged little-boat-in-big-water scenes (we’d seen rehearsals for this in End of a Sweet Night and 18 Who Stir Up a Storm), is probably even better, particularly the way in which it and the film just end, with the sun’s reflected glare annihilating the characters.

The more of these films I see, the harder it is to believe that at least some of them won’t be picked up by a bold English language company.
How can you see this film and not be impressed?

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