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

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Thick-Walled Room (Masaki Kobayashi, 1956)

Torohiko Hamada in The Thick-Walled Room
Yokota: Ko Mishima
Yamashita: Torohiko Hamada
Yoshiko: Keiko Kishi
Yamashita's Sister: Toshiko Kobayashi
Kawanishi: Kinzo Shin
Kimura: Tsutomu Shimomoto

Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Screenplay: Kobo Abe
Cinematography: Hiroshi Kusuda
Art direction: Kimihiko Nakamura
Film editing: Shizuo Oosawa
Music: Chuji Kinoshita

The resonant phrase "just following orders" hovers silently throughout Masaki Kobayashi's scathing The Thick-Walled Room. It's a portrait of postwar Japan more critical of all concerned, from the militarists who caused the war to the forces that occupied the country after it, than most of the films made by Kobayashi's contemporaries, which is why it was held from release for three years after it was made in 1953. The film focuses on the class-B and -C war criminals held prisoners by the occupying Americans -- and then by the Japanese -- for crimes they were ordered by their superior officers to commit. Meanwhile, many of those superior officers have been released and have returned to civilian life and even to important positions in business and government. The prisoners are both haunted by the things they were ordered to do and resentful of the injustice of their situation. They also remain ignorant of the way the outside world has changed. Yokota, for example, dreams of his girlfriend, Yoshiko, unaware that she has become a prostitute. The screenplay by novelist Kobo Abe is psychologically rich, and Kobayashi's direction makes the most of its subtleties. 

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