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Patriotism
[Yukoku / The Rite of Love and Death ]

Genre: Minimalist Depiction of Mishima's "Patriotic" Ideology

review in one breath

Directed, produced and acted by the infamous writer/political idealogue Yukio Mishima, this short, minimalist and stark film offers an unflinching depiction of Mishima's personal and political ideology. Filmed just four years prior to his suicide, the undeniable similarity between this film's narrative and Mishima's own personal demise caused the film to be "destroyed" at his wife's request shortly thereafter. In 2005, following his widow's death, the film was re-released. It is nothing short of fascinating, particularly for those familiar with the political views and death of Mishima.



Rashomon

Genre: Frankenstein

review in one breath

"The demons living here have fled in the fear of the ferocity of man."

his movie was one of Akira Kurosawa's first to gain widespread recognition and as is characteristic with many of his films, contains an unusual theme which is later mimiced by myriad others. The movie is based on the novel "Yabu no naka (In a Grove)" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and presents a tale wherein truth appears to be merely in the eye of the beholder.



Tattooed Life

Irezumi ichidai

Genre: Old-School Yakuza Reverence

review in one breath

A convicted Yakuza felon is forced to decide between his own safety and the protection of his good-natured, devoted younger brother. Choosing the latter, both brothers flee to a remote mining town in the hopes of finding work and solace from the police. Their career choice brings them into contact with the motley and volatile crew of mine workers, each seemingly with a similarly notorious background. In spite of the elder brother's relentless efforts to keep them both out of harm's way, once the younger brother becomes fixated on the exemplar beauty of boss's wife, all hell breaks loose. This early film by renowned director Suzuki Seijun brings classic depictions of Yakuza nobility and Japanese humanism to the fore. Definitely worth checking out!




Sword of Doom
[Dai-bosatsu toge]

Genre: Evil Mind, Evil Sword Samurai Tale
Director: Okamoto Kihachi (1966)

review in one breath

The principles of samurai bushido are in sharp focus here, demonstrating the zen-like connection between the swordsman's mind and his use of the blade. Sword of Doom examines an unruly samurai with ruthless sword skills whose ego and moral deficiencies lead him down a path of ultimate destruction. This is truly a classic samurai film in that it is wholly about the bushido mentality and how one's moral character and discipline ultimately decide one's fate.


Ugetsu Monogatari
[Tales of Moonlight and Rain]

Genre: Classic Japanese Ghost Tale

review in one breath

This classic supernatural morality tale follows the path of two men who prioritize their ambitions above all else and inadvertently set aside their families and responsibilities. This 1953 ghost tale is arguably the FIRST truly Japanese horror film and is thus required viewing for anyone seriously interested in the whole of J-Horror.



Ghosts of Kasane Swamp
[Kaidan Kasane ga Fuchi]

Genre: Classic Japanese Horror

review in one breath

The blind Soetsu lives with a loving wife and their young daughter in an adequate home supported by Soetsu's skill as a masseuse. On a wintry eve, Soetsu decides to visit a neighboring nobleman to who he had lent money over a year ago in the hopes of having the sum returned to him. But upon hearing Soetsu's request, the arrogant and ill-tempered samurai murders Soetsu and has his body dumped in nearby Kasane Swamp. This sets off a chain of events which not only drive the samurai to madness but will also take from him and his entire household what they hold most dearly.



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