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Jigoku / Hell

Jigoku / Hell (1960)

Apparently there's no need to elaborate

Director: Nakagawa Nobuo
Writers: Nakagawa Nobuo, Miyagawa Ichir么
Date: 1960

Genre: Horror
Description: Hell, hell on earth, man’s sins, man is an animal, other evil things

Cast: Amachi Shigeru, Numata Yoichi, Mitsuya Utako, Arashi Kanjuro, Nakamura Torahiko, Miyata Fumiko, Ono Akiko

Crew of note:

Runtime: 101 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia: I got this film by mistake, confusing it with Jigokumon. Hm, actually that doesn’t count as movie trivia.

summary
Shir么 and Tamura are classmates in university and friends. Sort of but not really, because Tamura’s pretty creepy and is also an asshole. One evening, on some remote dirt road, they accidentally run over a thug and quickly drive away from their crime. The thug’s mother and girlfriend vow to avenge the lowlife’s death, and with the growing guilt, Tamura’s weirdness, family troubles and some really terrible turn-of-events, the world slowly turns into HELL.

review
First of all, WTF was I thinking? I absolutely hate watching scary films, because seriously, why would I want to voluntarily give myself nightmares? Still, I have a long-standing curiosity about films with “Jigoku” in the title, and I somehow convinced myself to see this, knowing it was an important film.

So, was it worth it? Sort of, but not really (for me anyway). The movie is a difficult watch, even though it doesn’t involve any common horror tropes like monsters or ghosts or axe murderers. However, it becomes pretty obvious that outright scares isn’t the point of this movie at all. Rather, Nakagawa tries to create a depiction of Hell and Hell On Earth, not only with astounding visuals, but with mood and atmosphere as well.

The second half of the film usually gets the most attention because of its truly visionary and unparalleled representation of hell. Seriously, it’s pretty crazy. There are tons of things commonly associated with hell, but watch out for the water wheel–it’s possibly the scariest thing in hell, evar.

That said, the first part of the movie is also quite important. Before entering into hell, the world Shir么 inhabits slowly turns for the worst; as I’ve said, turns into hell on earth. There is a sense of absurdity, of irrationality in many of the events that take place in the first half. And while it is somewhat annoying and way too depressing (and a little sappy), the message is quite clear. In fact, I found myself more disturbed during the first half than the second–life is what it is and is closer to fact, hell here is an interpretation.

Arashi Kanjuro in Jigoku / Hell

30 years to get from Tengu to Enma? Advancement opportunities my ass*

Thinking about this film is giving me the creeps so I’ll stop now. See this though if you aren’t a sissy?

conclusion
I was thoroughly, completely freaked out while watching this film. It isn’t at all gorey, and really doesn’t have many horror-y moments. But it’s such an assault on your senses with its version of hell that it’s hard not to be a bit unnerved by the whole experience. Which is exactly the purpose of this movie, I guess. Not exactly a fun film to watch (unless you’re Satan, maybe), but certainly accomplished and significant in the development of the (psychological?) horror genre.

things to take note of
The many symbols and things, like the number 9
Hell on Earth
This is Buddhist hell, not Christian hell
Absurdity

best moment
Hell, duh

why you should watch this
Nakagawa Nobuo is the father is this thing called J-Horror, probably
This is the strangest, and possibly most precise depiction of not only Hell itself, but hell on Earth as well

rating: 7.9 but only because I don’t like scary movies

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

similar movies, maybe:
For some reason, I get the same creepy vibe from Onibaba

* The “tengu”, used in Kurama Tengu (which Arashi starred in in 1928), is a Japanese folklore monster. Normally it’s translated as “goblin”, but this isn’t very accurate. The tengu is usually depicted as a man-like bird monster, or a dude with a really long nose. Imagine Adrien Brody with feathers and a scowl, maybe. Enma is the king of Buddhist hell. Also, do your own damn research.

Rokudenashi / Good-for-Nothing

Rokudenashi / Good-for-Nothing (1960)

Yes those antacids were good for nothing 馃槮

Director: Yoshida Yoshishige
Writers: Yoshida Yoshishige
Date: 1960

Genre: Drama, Crime
Description: A bunch of good for nothing, spoiled brat and his friends, making the wrong decisions, trying to make a life worthwhile, punks, Japanese new wave, disenchanted youth

Cast: Tsugawa Masahiko, Takachiho Hizuru, Kawazu Yusuke, Yamashita Junichiro, Mishima Masao, Chino Kakuko

Crew of note: Music by Kinoshita Chuji (Yoshishige’s brother)

Runtime: 88 mins.
Color: Black and White
Trivia: Yoshida Yoshishige’s first film. He is often considered an important figure in Japanese new wave cinema

summary
Jun is part of a gang of misfits, literally good for nothings with absolutely nothing to do, one of which is a spoiled brat with a rich father. And what do you do when you’re bored? You party, go to the beach, mess around with people, and try to steal from your father. Not exactly a great idea, but at least it makes things exciting.

review
It is interesting how directors such as Oshima and Yoshida started out. During the early 60s, the Japanese movie industry was undergoing a crisis of sorts, with revenues dropping due to the introduction of the television. In an attempt to find new talent and create new, more interesting and contemporary films, young directors like the two above, were given opportunities at studios like Shochiku. Strange, when you consider how strict these companies were, and how they were known for limiting their directors’ creative freedom (from forcing scripts on them to rejecting ideas).

This generation of film makers, however, was finally given freedom to pretty much do as they pleased (at least, for the first few years until studios became more suspicious of the content of their films). Yoshida pumped out three films in his first 2 years in the director’s chair, and Rokudenashi is his first.

At the age of 27 and coming from a literature background, Yoshida turned to cinema because of his ire over the “stuffy academic milieu” (from Cahiers du Cin茅ma 1970), hoping to be a voice against the “predominantly industrial, commercial cinema.” A film about good-for-nothings is naturally a great topic, don’t you think? But what makes the film unique is that the use of the title, “Rokudenashi”, is not so much a condemnation, but a simple description of the way these young men want to be. If you expect a moral lesson or a cry of social concern over the degradation of the attitude of the young, well, you ain’t getting any. Instead Yoshida delivers a punch in the gut and a healthy dose of ride cymbals, existentialism, and poor decisions.

I’d like to propose that, perhaps, Rokudenashi is more an allegory for the incoming brand of film makers that were slowly starting to emerge as the best and brightest in Japan. “Fuck you politically correct studio executives, we’re going to do this shit anyway.” Life may be meaningless and absurd, but being cool, listening to cool music, and making out with chicks sure beats being lame and boring.

It’s hard to argue with Yoshida with pictures like this:

Rokudenashi / Good-for-Nothing (1960)

Tokyo is empty and he needs a toilet. SUSPENSE ENSUES

conclusion
This is an important film to see for Japanese new wave fans as an introduction to Yoshida’s style and influences. And if this movie can be summed up in a sentence, it will surely involve his glossy, jazzy style and translation of the French new wave. For some reason, he is not quite as well regarded as some of his contemporaries such as Suzuki, Imamura, Oshima, Masumura. But after seeing this film, it will be difficult to argue against the fact that this was one of the the most visually and musically stunning films in early Japanese new wave.

things to take note of
The jazzy jazziness
Some strange angles that are really brilliant
Tracking shots and movement

best moment
The screencap above

why you should watch this
Yoshida’s first film
Contains some brilliant shots; the one above is probably in my top 10

rating: 7.8

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

similar movies, maybe:
Oshima Nagisa’s Seishun zankoku monogatari
Masumura Yasuzo’s Kuchizuke

Ooe-yama Shuten-d么ji / Demon of Mt. Oe

Ooe-yama Shuten-d么ji / Demon of Mt. Oe (1960)

As usual these old covers make absolutely no sense to me

Director: Tanaka Tokuzo
Writers: Kawaguchi Matsutaro, Yahiro Fuji
Date: 1960

Genre: Jidaigeki, Kaiju eiga
Description: Demon mountain, Minamoto no Yorimitsu and the gang, protecting the people, fight against bandits, funny monster

Cast: Ichikawa Raizo, Hasegawa Kazuo, Katsu Shintaro, Hongo Kojiro, Nakamura Ganjiro, Nakamura Yutaka, Yamamoto Fujiko, Hidari Sachiko, Hayashi Narutoshi, Shimada Ryuzu

Crew of note:

Runtime: 115 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia:

summary
Minamoto no Yorimitsu (or Raiko for short) and his fantastic four must stop Shuten-d么ji and his crazy bandits and sorcerers (including a Tsuchigumo, or spider demon) from their evil plan of overthrowing the Mikado (the emperor and his empire) and stealing all their chicks.

review

Rundown of characters!
=The Good Guys=
Minamoto no Yorimitsu – Played By Raizo; famous military general of the Fujiwara, subject of many stories and legends; badass
Watanabe no Tsuna – Played by Shintaro; one of the Four Guardian Kings; uses a sword and bow; likes flirting with demons
Sakata no Kintoki – Played by Hongo Kojiro; one of the Four Guardian Kings; uses a battle axe; mountain man extraordinaire
Urabe no Suetake and Usui Sadamitsu – The two other Guardian Kings who aren’t featured as much in the film–sorry dudes

=The Bad Guys=
Shuten-d么ji – Played by Hasegawa Kazuo; formerly known as Bizen; leader of the Mt. Oe bandits; hates the Mikado; wears a funky wig
Ibaraki-d么ji – Lady vixen sorceress who turns into a really ugly demon-woman. Major turn-off.
Tsuchigomo – A creepy sorcerer who throws string to tie people up; turns into a giant spider when pissed off
A dude that turns into a giant bull, forgot his name; has bad breath
Lots of bandits with bad hair?

For more info (and spoilers): This website has a pretty detailed story or just use wikipedia?

Movies based on famous plays/novels and history always create a special spectacle especially when they involve legendary characters. Few are more famous than Minamoto no Yorimitsu and his Four Guardian Kings. For the most part, the film follows the legend very well, from Ibaraki-d么ji’s encounter with Tsuna, down to the final plan Minamoto no Yorimitsu hatches in order to defeat the bandits. However, Tanaka chooses to sympathize with Shuten-d么ji and gives him ample screen time (well they should considering how much they probably paid Hasegawa). They develop his character and his reason for becoming the leader of the bandits, and from the opening scene we can see Tanaka’s condemnation of the abusive Mikado. Sure, Raiko and the gang are the heroes of the film, and they’re on the Mikado’s side, but the Mikado is portrayed as, perhaps, the greater evil here. This humanization of the the villain leads to a more interesting conflict, and certainly a more interesting final showdown (which of course is always inevitable).

The main spectacle here, of course, is the idea of putting two cool things together and making them kill each other: samurai and monsters + bandits. A large battle in the mountains with hundreds of extras, elaborate sets, flaming giant rocks, a giant spider, a giant bull, bandits with terrible hair, cool battle armor, a glowing sword, and cheezy 60’s special effects are just some of the things you’ll see in this extravaganza. They certainly went all-out in trying to recreate the legend, and for the most part the movie succeeds. It does not encumber itself with life lessons and overt political nonsense and never tries to be anything more than a retelling of this memorable tale.

conclusion
If you like samurai, history/literature lessons, and 60’s monster movies, this has it all. With a superb cast of superstars and an interesting interpretation of the famous legend, Demon of Mt. Oe is both educational and fun. Always a good combination if you ask me.

things to take note of
The funny yokai/monsters
The all-star cast

best moment
Raizo vs. Kazuo
Hongo Kojiro heaves his battle axe
Samurai vs Giant Spider

why you should watch this
An all star cast of jidaigeki STARS (not just regulars)
Learning about Japanese culture/folklore is always fun when supplied by movies

rating: 8.1

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

similar movies, maybe:
Honestly haven’t watched many Kaiju-jidaigeki

Hadaka no shima / The Naked Island

Shind么 Kaneto - Hadaka no shima / The Naked Island (1960)

An upgrade over nude beaches? Sadly, no.

Director: Shind么 Kaneto
Writers: Shind么 Kaneto
Date: 1960

Genre: Drama
Description: Stuck on an island, not so ordinary ordinary life, same shit different day, tragedy of life, uphill climb, the difficulties of life, trying to survive, life, living on, Sisyphusian

Cast: Tonoyama Taiji, Otowa Nobuko, Tanaka Shinji, Horimoto Masanori

Crew of note:

Runtime: 95 mins.
Color: Black and White
Trivia:

summary
A farmer’s family of 4 lives on an island in the Japan sea. Everyday they go to work, carrying soil and water from near the shores, and lugs them up the steep cliffs of their island. This is their life, everyday, for the rest of their lives.

review
Really, a poem more than a film, if that were possible; poetry in laborious motions. It is only fair that I admit, though, that the lack of dialogue can be a bit tiring for one’s attention, and it does take a certain attitude and disposition to do away with the contrivances of a seemingly imposed silence. The music tries to make up for it, and though a little melodramatic, it adds enough insight into each scene that dialogue is often hardly missed. The sounds of pikes cracking the ground, the blasting wind, the beaten shores, the flowing water, the chug of the motor… in fact there are few moments of absolute quiet, with the long spaces between the handful of words filled with ambient noises of their island.

The movie is shot with an almost documentary-ghost-observer like perspective. The intro and outro swoops are an interesting touch–almost like an introduction to National Geographic specials. There are many scenes to be admired, such as the boat scenes and the several long distance shots throughout the film. Documentary film making is supposed to show things as it is, with as little cinematic manipulation as conceivable. I don’t think such a thing is possible though (let’s not get into too theoretical a discussion), but Shind么 truly tries to show the island naked of artifice. Again, not entirely possibly, but the effort sure is there.

This is, again (I seem to like reviewing movies like these), one with a very bare plot. The summary is pretty much it, with a few interesting events here and there. Though the looping and repetitive nature of the film feels tiresome, it does so to perfect effect because it is able to emphasize the redundant, never-ending cycle of their Sisyphusian lives. It is a difficult life, indeed, and Shind么 is able to help us grasp that feeling of trappedness, the ennui of a tedious life of labor. Yet, at the same time, it is possible to understand the characters, their diligence in the face of a neverending task, and be affected by the great drama that Shind么 shows us.

conclusion
With an economy of words like no other, this movie is able to move. Shind么 uses this silence, this resignation to fate, not only to humanize his characters, but to empathize with them as well. The lack of dialogue may be a deterrent for some–and I concede that there are one or two moments when the moment absolutely called for words–but the movie’s charm comes from this reservation. What more can be said?

things to take note of
Shots from long distances
The sounds of the island
Facial expressions

best moment
Boat rides
Climbing the cliffs

why you should watch this
Poetry in motion–this phrase finally makes some sense
If you think your life sucks, think again

rating: 8.6

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

similar movies, maybe:
Imamura Shohei’s “Profound Desire of the Gods”, only with crazy thrown into the mix and in color

genres

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