Jujiro / Crossroads

No cover art available. However…

Kinugasa Teinosuke - Jujiro / Crossroads (1928)

Why he found this chick hot, I'll never understand

Director: Kinugasa Teinosuke
Writers: Kinugasa Teinosuke
Date: 1928

Genre: Drama
Description: Brother-sister relationship, love story (with another lady crazy), obsession, blindness, evil men, tragedy, impressionism

Cast: Bando Junosuko, Chihaya Akiko, Ogawa Yukiko, Sohma Ippei, Hasegawa Kazuo

Crew of note: Cinematography by Kôhei Sugiyama

Runtime: 80 mins.
Color: Black and White
Trivia:

summary
Rikiya and Okiku are two siblings living in a rundown tenement in the Yoshiwara district (Red Light District + Gambling dens and other mischief) of Edo. They barely live a life of subsistence, and theirs is a world of perpetual darkness. One day, Rikiya eyes O-yume (depending on the kanji which isn’t shown, this could possibly mean “Miss Dream”), a girl who works at one of the gaming stands, and becomes madly obsessed with her. However, O-yume is admired by many powerful men, including samurai, government officials and many others. Rikiya, driven by his obsession, must find a way to defeat them all and claim O-yume as his own.

review
Obsession over women, ahh the age old folly of man. Stories of dudes going crazy for chicks and ruining their lives with dumbass decision go as far back as I care to remember. Outsiders condemn these people for their irrational behavior and poor decision making, and a common exclamation for these instances is “What were they thinking?!” Jujiro, in my opinion, acts as a sort of exploration into the mind of obsession. With understandably crazy results.Instead of trying to weave a complicated story (the plot is still good in this one though, with siblings and social hierarchies), which wouldn’t quite have achieved much on its own, Kinugasa focuses on the visuals–a representation of obsession.

Using an amazing array of camera and editing techniques–superimposition, ambiguous close-ups, rapid pans, creeping zooms, a spinning camera, rapid jump cuts, successive shots of random everyday objects, an emphasis on shadows in an already dark world…–Kinugasa is able to recreate Rikiyo’s mind and posits it as the real world that the siblings inhabit. The characters become mad exaggerations–the cackle of wandering courtesans, the white faces of geisha, the pompous samurai, the swelling crowds–and only Okiku, the lone sympathetic character in the film, almost a voice of reason or reality, seems apart from this nightmare, and she is the source of most of the film’s more tender moments. While the rest of Japan was busy making jidaigekis and Chaplin copies, Kinugasa was pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

The only slight problem in Kinugasa’s picture is that there are occasions when the screen is a little too dark. It adds to the nightmarish quality of the film, but for people with dark screens or poor eyesight, it might be a problem trying to figure out who’s who or who’s doing what. Still, it’s amazing how Kinugasa was able to get such a variety of shots with such little light.

As Rikiyo grows in his obsession of the equally strange O-yume, the film becomes more and more an elaboration of his condition, a dingy illumination of his world. It’s frightening, confusing, and fascinating.

Note: Saw this with no accompaniment. I’m curious how it’d be with an equally impressionistic score.

conclusion
Along with Kurutta ippeji / Page of Madness, Kinugasa’s work in cinematic impressionism is, at the very least, a landmark in Asian cinema. You will be hardpressed to find anything as forward thinking and modern as these two films (which were made at the same time as the French Impressionist Film movement), showing that Asia was barely, if at all, lagging behind in the art of film during the silent period. Beautiful, technically impressive and surprisingly emotional, Jujiro / Crossroads is not just a picture for film students, but something any hobbyist can marvel at and enjoy.

things to take note of
The perpetual night
Impressionist images of everyday objects
The madness
All those crazy visuals
There are a lot of symbols here, I was just too lazy to explain them

best moment
On the streets, and all the random items made to seem crazy

why you should watch this
I don’t think anyone in Japan, maybe the world, did anything quite like this during the 20’s
It’s crazy!!

rating: 8.4

scorecard
Plot: C+
Cast: C+
Cinematography: A+++
Music: C+
Entertainment: C+

similar movies, maybe:
You should also watch Kinugasa’s Kurutta ippeji / Page of Madness

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