A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Pigs and Battleships (Shohei Imamura, 1961)

Jitsuko Yoshimura in Pigs and Battleships
Kinta: Hiroyuki Nagato
Haruko: Jitsuko Yoshimura
Himori: Masao Mishima
Slasher Tetsuji: Tetsuro Tanba
Hoshino: Shiro Osaka
Ohachi: Takeshi Kato
Gunji, Gangster in Check Shirt: Shoichi Ozawa
Katsuyo: Yoko Minimida
Kikuo: Hideo Sato
Kan'ichi: Eijiro Tono
Sakiyama: Akira Yamauchi
Hiromi: Sanae Nakahara
Haruko's Mother: Kin Sugai
Harukoma: Bumon Kahara

Director: Shohei Imamura
Screenplay: Hisashi Yamanouchi, Gisashi Yamauchi
Based on a novel by Kazu Otsuka
Cinematography: Shinsaku Himeda
Art direction: Kimihiko Nakamura
Film editing: Mutsuo Tanji
Music: Toshiro Mayuzumi

It seems to be common in critiques of Shohei Imamura's work to contrast him with his mentor, Yasujiro Ozu. The world of Ozu's films is that of the settled middle class families, with their marriageable daughters and salarymen breadwinners, filmed in the stately, low camera angle style that almost immediately identifies Ozu's work. Imamura's films are full of low-lifes, people struggling to get along by any means necessary, and are full of flamboyant camerawork, such as the spectacularly crowded widescreen compositions in Pigs and Battleships. A contrast of Ozu and Imamura is rather like a contrast of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens: Both do things with radically different means, the one with a raucous, satiric assortment of colorful characters, the other with a quiet, ironic examination of manners and mores. But both Ozu and Imamura share something: an admiration for strong women. In the case of Pigs and Battleships, it's Haruko, struggling to find herself in the hurlyburly of Yokosuka, the port city infested with American sailors. She has had the misfortune to fall in love with the goofball Kinta, who wants to make his name as a yakuza, getting involved with the gang's pig-raising scheme. Hiroyuki Nagato gives a hilariously loosey-goosey performance as Kinta, mugging like Jerry Lewis when he really wants to be Humphrey Bogart. It's not entirely clear what Jitsuko Yoshimura's Haruko really sees in Kinta, but the performance of the two actors together is highly entertaining. Although the film plays mostly for comedy, culminating in the destruction of much of the red-light district by a stampede of pigs, it features several murders and the rape of Haruko by three American sailors, with the result that it's dominated by a kind of Swiftian satiric tone.

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