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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Black River (Masaki Kobayashi, 1957)

Tatsuya Nakadai and Ineko Arima in Black River
Shizuko: Ineko Arima
Nishida: Fumio Watanabe
Killer Joe: Tatsuya Nakadai
Landlady: Isuzu Yamada
Okada: Tomo'o Nagai
Okada's Wife: Keiko Awaji
Kurihara: Eijiro Tono
Kin: Seiji Miyaguchi
Sakazaki: Asao Sano

Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Screenplay: Zenzo Matsuyama
Based on a story by Takeo Tomishima
Cinematography: Yuharu Atsuta
Production design: Ninjin Kurabu
Film editing: Yoshiyasu Hamamura
Music: Chuji Kinoshita

Masaki Kobayashi's remarkable slice-of-life drama Black River takes place in a slum near an American army base. It's a festering dump, inhabited by a variety of people, from lowlifes attempting to make a living by exploiting the soldiers to dead-enders with no place else to go. Into this morass wanders a naïve university student, Nishida, in search of cheap lodgings, who tries to make a little money as a used-book seller. He falls for a pretty waitress, Shizuko, who longs to escape from the slum, but their attachment puts him in the line of fire of a swaggering young gangster called Killer Joe, who has his own designs on Shizuko. Presiding over everything is the landlady, who has plans for the property that don't include its tenants. She's played to a fare-thee-well by the great Isuzu Yamada, perhaps best known as the Lady Macbeth equivalent in Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood (1957). Here she's outfitted with a snaggly golden-toothed grill, a fitting correlative for the concealment of the moral rot within. But the real scene-stealer of the film is Tatsuya Nakadai as Killer Joe, in one of his first major film appearances, perfectly blending the charisma that would make him a star with the menace that would allow him to play memorable villains as well as heroes.

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