A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Conflagration (Kon Ichikawa, 1958)

Tatsuya Nakadai and Raizo Ichikawa in Conflagration 
Goichi Mizoguchi: Raizo Ichikawa
Tokari: Tatsuya Nakadai
Tayama Dosen: Ganjiro Nakamura
Tsurukawa: Yoichi Funaki
Goichi's Mother: Tanie Kitabayashi
Goichi's Father: Jun Hamamura

Director: Kon Ichikawa
Screenplay: Keiji Hasebe, Kon Ichikawa, Notto Wada
Based on a novel by Yukio Mishima
Cinematography: Kazuo Miyagawa
Music: Toshiro Mayuzumi

I haven't read the Yukio Mishima novel, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, on which Conflagration is based, but the film has the earmarks of an adaptation from a novel, including incidents, such as Goichi's vandalizing the sword of a naval cadet who mocked him, and such secondary characters as Tsurukawa, the fellow acolyte who befriends him, whose treatment feels truncated, as if their narrative and symbolic weight was greater in the book than Kon Ichikawa was able to give them in the film. But the fine performances of Raizo Ichikawa, Ganjiro Nakamura, and Tatsuya Nakadai help Conflagration succeed on its own. Ichikawa plays a young Buddhist acolyte, Goichi, whose stammer has made him an outcast, and whose troubled childhood only worsens his sense of alienation. Nakamura plays the head priest at a temple, who studied with Goichi's father and takes the young man in out of a sense of duty, eventually paying his way to the university. There, Goichi meets another outcast, Tokari, whose deformed leg has caused him to become bitter and cynical. Although Goichi retains his shyness and naïveté, the two bond as outcasts, with Tokari's darkly rebellious philosophy eventually infecting the young acolyte, provoking him to the destructive act that gives the film its title. Nakadai's intensity in the role gives the sometimes plodding narrative, with its flashbacks within flashbacks, a needed jolt.

Watched on Turner Classic Movies

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