Thursday, July 21, 2011

Black Rain

Shôhei Imamura, Japan, 1989 (9.0*)
This film begins with a harrowing recreation of the Hiroshima atomic blast to those nearby but separated enough from ground zero to escape immediate annihilation. This film follows a Mr. and Mrs. Shizuma and their niece Yasuko (wonderfully played by Yoshiko Tanaka), who wander through the devastation of Hiroshima just minutes after the blast. The three survive this harrowing apocalypse, and the film picks up their lives five years later, when they are now living in a secluded mountain village, along with other survivors of what they call "picabon" or the Japanese equivalent of the 'nuclear flash'.

The basic story follows the lives of survivors five years later to show the lingering aftereffects on the Japanese civilian population. This is not a pleasant story, but in Imamura's hands becomes an elegaic homage to all the victims who managed to survive for years longer, but whose lives were forever touched in some way. Many seem resigned to the inevitable problems and thus never really continue normal lives, while others are content to spend their time fishing or enjoying the simple pleasures of slow mountain life.

Director Shôhei Imamura adds to the journalistic look of this film by choosing to shoot in classic black and white, in fact, the film resembles the style of Japanese films circa 1950. The story ends to remain faithful to the original novel by Masuji Ibuse, but the dvd includes an alternate ending in the form of a 17-minute color epilogue added by Imamura, who decided to not add his ending to the original film.

Actress Yoshiko Tanaka adds a lot to this film with her subtle yet emotionally moving performance as a young woman who walked through Hiroshima immediately after the blast, yet appears physically immune to any aftereffects.

One of Imamura's assistant directors was famed director Takashi Miike, who said in an interview that his job on this film was "hired dog", yet it gave him an inner strength that he's used in his own works, such as Ichi the Killer and 13 Assassins, which have been criticized for featuring 'over the top' violence.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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