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Joen / The Affair

Joen / The Affair (1967)

Not a bad affair if you ask me

Director: Yoshida Yoshishige (or Kiju)
Writers: Tamura Tsutomu, Yoshida Yoshishige
Date: 1967

Genre: Drama
Description: Love affair, love, marriage, extra-marrital affair, rape, identity, freedom

Cast: Okada Mariko, Minami Yoshie, Sugano Tadahiko, Shimegi Shigako, Kimura Isao, Takahashi Etsushi

Crew of note:

Runtime: 1 hour 32 mins
Color: Black and White

Oriko’s and her mother had a difficult relationship. She knew of her mother’s relationships with men, and insisted she stop, interfering in the affair. Now that her mother has passed away, Oriko attempts to find out more about her from her lovers. Oriko herself is in an unhappy marriage; one without love. She wishes to divorce him, but her husband refuses. Through this dilemma she begins to understand her mother more and more, and that they are more alike than she thinks.

Joen / The Affair (1967)

'Oh mom you're such a slut'

Admittedly, this didn’t start that well for me. I’m not sure why, but I found myself uninterested for the first few minutes. The movie starts rather slow, and already comes out with an affair: Oriko’s mother and a much younger man. Okada Mariko, in fact, is just there to complain. Another movie about sarcastic, petulant women? Okay, probably not.

The film’s events are launched by her mother’s affair, and much of it revolves around love and love affairs. Yet what the film is truly about is Oriko’s discovery of herself, both as her mother’s daughter and as a woman. Her relationships with men–with her husband and with her mother’s lovers–all represent different parts of Oriko’s life. The juxtaposition of events (and rather clear dialogue) and character relationships creates a web of meaning brought about by contrast: freedom and comfort; submission and animal desires; choice and depth. We discover with Oriko who she really is, and what she really wants–one or the other, both, all, or none at all.

This is all created with about as much silence as conversation, and Yoshida proves himself a worthy student of Ozu in how he strings together images to surround events with more meaning and context. The beach, the forest, those long walks alone or with a companion, the smalled room (through close up), the cabin, her large but seemingly empty house… the camera is also one of the principal story tellers.

Joen / The Affair (1967)

I guess she isn't a fan of furniture

If the film has one flaw, it is that it may be hard to follow. The sequence of events feels somewhat confusing, even though they occur chronologically (I think), but I am unsure why I experienced this difficulty. Everything seemed to be next to one another, which, in my mind, merged one event with those around it, even if they were with different characters or in different settings. Perhaps this is a reflection of Oriko’s character.

Or perhaps this a reflection of my fickle attention span. :p

Joen / The Affair (1967)

This would be an awesome chambara scene if only they had katanas

Despite my terrible attention span (that’s only really good enough for chambara), for the most part, I was captivated by this film. The images are very strong, and many scenes will linger long after they are seen. It is because of the way Yoshida combines his pictures and scenes that the movie is able to be more than a sappy melodrama, and maybe one of his most memorable films.

things to take note of
The excellent cinematography
The hand-held camera going around
Pay attention because the chronology of events and the cutting is a little confusing maybe

best moment
In the log cabin: meaning + great cinematography = good movietimes

why you should watch this
That log cabin scene alone is worth it, really
Okada Mariko!

rating: 8.8

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

similar movies, maybe:
Many of Yoshida’s films have the same feel, so probably those. Akitsu onsen, Arashi o yobu juhachi-nin, Juhyo no yoromeki… etc.
New wave-era directors like Shindô Kaneto and Kinoshita Keisuke, but not Oshima, Shinoda, Masumura

Joi-uchi: Hairyô tsuma shimatsu / Samurai Rebellion

Joi-uchi: Hairyo tsuma shimatsu / Samurai Rebellion (1967)

I guess it's obvious he gets chopped to bits. Another movie spoiled by cover art

Director: Kobayashi Masaki
Writers: Hashimoto Shinobu, Takiguchi Yasuhiko
Date: 1967

Genre: Chambara
Description: Ninjo vs giri, cruel samurai tradition, a good wife, true love, fight against the daimyo, stupid politics, true internal rebellion, fight to the death

Cast: Mifune Toshiro, Kato Takeshi, Tsukasa Yoko, Nakadai Tatsuya, Hamamura Jun, Yamagata Isao, Koyama Shigeru

Crew of note: Music by Takemitsu Toru

Runtime: 128 mins.
Color: Black and White

The movie opens with Isaburo (Mifune), one of his clan’s best, displaying his sword skill–drawing it seems like a mere ritual after decades of peace. Tatewaki (Nakadai) is his best friend, who patrols the borders of their clan. Eventually Isaburo will rebel (no surprise there) for a very good reason, and swordfights ensue! [note: Crappy summary for your benefit]

This is one of those films where it is best to enter with your preconceptions, expectations, and high hopes. This is the kind that’s most difficult to review, because those said expectations are part of the experience, and revealing anything more than a bare-bones background and a technical rundown may be a disservice to the potential viewing public. It’s best to see this film knowing only its title, Samurai Rebellion, as I did. Also, you should already have seen a least a couple of chambara, and know its tropes genre standards.

Let me just say a few things, though. This is one of the most complexly plotted rebellion films in chambara, and it is one of the things that makes it most interesting. As with all of Kobayashi’s work, there is a rich undercurrent of political and social commentary, about the cruel and incomprehensible traditions of the samurai, and about modern life as well. The story is treated with much restraint, just as the characters in the story control their emotions in order to fulfill either ninjo or giri. The dialogue between characters is meaningful, occasionally metaphoric, and always addressing some social or personal concern. Fidelity, loyalty and the acceptance of one’s fate are traits esteemed by bushido, but sometimes, enough is enough.

Expect a great film about a real rebellion.

Harakiri is definitely Kobayashi’s most popular film, perhaps his best. Even The Human Condition receives more notice than this movie. Those two are justifiably must-sees, but this one deserves some recognition as well. One of the most intelligent, emotional, and down-to-earth rebellion chambara you will ever find. This isn’t an unknown movie by any standard, but it still deserves more than it’s so far received.

things to take note of
The rebellion
Mifune’s dialogue

best moment
Mifune + Nakadai
The last stand
The last duel
Conversation between Ichi an Isaburo in the rock garden

why you should watch this
Mifune + Nakadai!!!!
A chambara with a love story that also proves your expectations wrong, and even bests them

rating: 8.5

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

similar movies, maybe:
Harakiri, also directed by Kobayashi
There are other “rebellion” chambara, but none are very similar to this kind of rebellion

Dubei dao / The One-Armed Swordsman

Dubei dao / The One-Armed Swordsman (1967)

Not shown: Fang Gang trying to tie his shoelaces

Director: Chang Cheh
Writers: Ni Kuang, Chang Cheh
Date: 1967

Genre: Wuxia
Description: A one armed swordsman, trying to forget your past life, repaying kindness, an evil plot, saving one’s master and brothers, doing the right thing, giving up kung fu

Cast: Jimmy Wang Yu, Chiao Chiao, Pan Yin Tze, Tang Ti, Tien Feng, Yang Chih-Ching

Crew of note: Tang Chia and Lau Kar Leung acted as action directors

Runtime: 112 mins.
Color: Color

As a child, Fang Gang witnesses his father, a servant at this famous martial arts school, save Master Qi from the Long-Armed Devil. Upon his death, Master Qi takes Fang Gang as one of his students to repay the father for his sacrifice. More than a decade later, Fang Gang becomes on of the school’s best students, but is looked down upon by the others because of his background. They ostracize him, and eventually force him to leave the school. An accident causes Fang Gang to lose an arm, and he decides to give up martial arts until…

A great wuxia movie that deserves its reputation, but what really sets it apart is a plot that goes much deeper than your average revenge or honor plot. There’s actual character development (gasp!), and Wang Yu shows that he can actually act, despite the fact his face really stays the same shape no matter what he does. Fang Gang actually has some depth to him, and his armlessness, his past, and his future all present difficulties that he faces with much reflection, and not just with testosterone. His motives are explained, and we are enlightened about the character’s feelings, and his true wishes. Some might be screaming “cut to the action already!!” during these more timid scenes, but they truly make the film more enjoyable because of the sympathy one feels for our reluctant hero.

Though there are now many “one last job” movies, this could have been one of the first (this is just a guess), and perhaps the most real in terms of plot development. Again, Chang Cheh shows that with enough thought, these types of movies can have some depth. They won’t change your life forever, but at least your brain gets some exercise, not just your fist. Doing fist pumps of awesomeness. The only thing really lacking is music, which was a great addition in the beginning but suddenly disappears (or at least fades away) halfway into the film.

Fang Gang is the quintessential anti-hero. He has given up martial arts and has found something else that he loves more than kung fu. However, circumstances force him to act against his wishes, and throughout the movie it is impossible to forget the conflict that boils inside him. Thus there is a greater build up of tension and greater satisfaction in denouement. And he kicks ass.

This isn’t one of the most magical or technically brilliant wuxia you’ll ever see, but what truly sets it apart is the unique hero that is Fang Gang. Yes, there’ll be tons of blood. Yes, things will get severed. And yes, swords and other weapons will be swinging wildly. But at the same time, you will care about our reluctant hero, and sympathize with his every difficult decision. Enjoy the action, but pay attention to the story.

things to take note of
The amount of drama time Fang Gang gets
The arm
The number of people that die
and the action of course

best moment
Fang Gang becomes the one armed swordsman

why you should watch this
Lots of action and… death (which is a good thing I guess)
There’s a lot more characterization than most swordplay movies
Chang Cheh + Lau Kar Leung + Jimmy Wang Yu. Duh.

rating: 8.1

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

similar movies, maybe:
The other two One-Armed Swordsman movies
Other Chang Cheh films, maybe The Brave Archer
Swordsman by King Hu / Tsui Hark / others



November 2020