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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2014 12:02 pm 
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Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II

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Hugely popular in his home country of Japan, Keisuke Kinoshita worked tirelessly as a director for nearly half a century, making lyrical, sentimental films that often center on the inherent goodness of people, especially in times of distress. He began his directing career during a most challenging time for Japanese cinema: World War II, when the industry’s output was closely monitored by the state and often had to be purely propagandistic. This collection of Kinoshita’s first films—four made while the war was going on and one shortly after Japan’s surrender—demonstrates the way the filmmaker’s humanity and exquisite cinematic technique shone through, even in the darkest of times.


Port of Flowers

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The sweet but naive denizens of a charming port town are hoodwinked by a couple of con men who prey on them at the outset of the war. But the hustlers’ plan backfires when they come down with severe cases of conscience. Kinoshita’s directorial debut is a breezy, warmhearted, and often very funny crowd-pleaser that’s a testament to the filmmaker’s faith in people.


The Living Magoroku

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A superstitious farming family is hesitant to use their prized fallow fields to grow crops to help feed the nation’s troops. Kinoshita’s rural drama was made to promote the war effort, but his story branches off in many directions, including one subplot about the family’s heirloom samurai sword and another about a blossoming young romance.


Jubilation Street

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As World War II escalates, the tight-knit habitants of a street in Tokyo must relocate from their homes so that the government can use the space. Kinoshita’s sensitive film—beautifully and resourcefully shot on a single set—traces the fears and desires of the evacuees.


Army

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Kinoshita’s ambitious and intensely moving film begins as a multigenerational epic about the military legacy of one Japanese family, before settling into an emotionally complex portrayal of parental love during wartime. As the parents of a boy shipped off to battle, Kinuyo Tanaka and Chishu Ryu locate profound depths of feeling that transcend ideology.


Morning for the Osone Family

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Kinoshita’s first film after the end of World War II is a wrenching, superbly wrought tale about a liberal-minded Japanese family torn apart by war and imperialist politics. Morning for the Osone Family is both palpably bitter about the nation’s fresh wartime wounds and inspiringly hopeful about a democratic tomorrow.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2014 12:57 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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The first ever December Eclipse set!


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2014 1:16 pm 
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Thrilled the line isn't dead yet, and this one looks fascinating.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2014 1:49 pm 
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Any thoughts as to why The Girl I Loved was not included while Morning for the Osone Family was (both post-war 1946)? I assume the simple answer is that the former has nothing to do with the War.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:00 pm 
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it looks like Port of Shadows isn't on Hulu, but the other four are. I just realized he has an impressive 25 films up on Hulu!


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:19 pm 
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movielocke wrote:
it looks like Port of Shadows isn't on Hulu, but the other four are. I just realized he has an impressive 25 films up on Hulu!

Port of Shadows? :-s


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:30 pm 
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Simply fabulous! Best release since a long time, at least considering films not having already been available in other editions for years .


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2015 11:50 am 
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DVDSavant review


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2015 11:04 am 
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DVDTalk


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 2:04 am 
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Kinoshita's debut film is not quite as strong as Kurosawa's, but Port of Flowers is still an impressive achievement.  Although it is at times undermined by the necessary nationalizing propaganda, the affection and warmth embuing the characters and story of this town coming together is downright Capra-esque in its charm and effectiveness.

The film opens on a small island that has seen better days.  they once thought a great port and shipyard would be built on their island, but the dreams never materialized.  Then they get news that the man who had tried to make those dreams happen has died.  The residents receive not one, but two nearly identical telegrams from the man's son, who is coming to visit.  The man is a con man, though, he is only posing as the rich man's son as part of a scam to sell bogus shares in the same misbegotten shipyard to the local residents and then abscond with all the money.  Spoiling his plans is another conman who came on the same idea, they arrive one right after the other and then have to pretend to be brothers and begrudgingly agree to split the spoils from conning these poor rural rubes.

And then Pearl Harbor happens--and it's truly startling to see a film from a 180 perspective on that event, it's shocking and disruptive for one to see such joy and excitement on the part of the Japanese at the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Their national pride swelling--and knowing that Japan really will need the ships built by the shipyard--the con men have to do what they actually claimed they would do all along and build the shipyard then give themselves up to the authorities!

It is the film's inelegant descent into didacticism that is its chief drawback, as the dialogue and performances lurching suddenly into propaganda mode are continually disruptive. Stylistically the propaganda scenes are also visually different, as if the bad dialogue and wooden acting in these all closeups moments weren't bothersome enough on their own.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 3:07 pm 
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The Living Magoroku is a much stronger film from Kinoshita, although it is still hampered by the same problems of explicit propaganda, the story, acting, script and characters are all superior to the vague fantasy of the Capra-fable of Port of Flowers.

I went into the film thinking the title referred to a flower or plant of some sort and was rather surprised that it refers to the film's central metaphor: a sword.

A Magoroku is a famous sword, there are very few true original Magoruku's left around, and the metaphor of the film is that Japan's men must become as living Magoroku's, forged strong and invincible to do their duty to country--although this is never explicitly stated, it's what I took from the title after seeing the film.

The film's opening scene is stunning, a sweeping and swooping progression through a battlefield in the Tokugawa era. The film then cuts to the present day, where Japanese recruits are training on that same battlefield. The battlefield itself is now sacred ground, of sorts, a cemetary to the thousands of men who died in the opening battle. As such, the noble family that has owned the battlefield ever since the battle has let the field lie fallow. The community believes there to be a curse upon the land, such that if anyone cultivates the land, they will die an early death.

But the young men of the area are so over such superstitious nonsense and they want to plow and plant the field to support the war effort, such is their immense pride. The elderly of the area and the noble family are staunchly opposed to this breaking of tradition and taboo. The head of the family, a young, callow man is particularly worried as both his father and grandfather died young, which he assumes is because his grandfather attempted to plow the field, and he is often in a hypochondriac state, believing himself to be on the cusp of death because of the same curse. His mother, grandmother and sister truly run the family, working their will around and through this idiot.

At the battlefield the officer in charge bawls out to the recruits to remember their ancestors and heritage and to fight like Samurai. Afterwards, the officer encounters the local blacksmith and the officer claims to possess a Magoroku, which the blacksmith does not believe but offers to assess for him. At the same time, a young physician arrives at the noble family's estate to plead his case. In his youthful ignorance, he sold his own family's Magoroku and now hopes to replace it, possibly by buying the noble family's famed heirloom. He is rebuffed, but as these threads converge, he quickly pins his hopes on purchasing the sword from the officer instead, but not before laying eyes on the lovely daughter of the noble family.

When the sword is tested, it breaks, and the blacksmith reveals that only the tang of the sword within the haft is Magoroku, the blade itself had been merely weakly attached to the broken piece to give the illusion or a complete original. The officer gets the blacksmith to forge him a new sword.

With the above all set up in the first few scenes, all these plot thread eventually resolve themselves when the officer returns at the end and compels everyone to do what he (the army) wants--the film plays it and scripts it much softer than that explanation, but you can easily interpret it as much more sinister, and could imagine Kobayashi's version of the same events would reveal the falsity of Kinoshita's propaganda version. here, we have the army's way being the way of happy endings and good outcomes for all, when the outcomes were probably mostly bad, but convenient for the army.

The film is quite enjoyable throughout, though, less didactic than Port of Flowers or the Most Beautiful and Kinoshita's camerawork, framing and staging are impeccable throughout. You can see him improving from the first film, and the overall richer, metaphor heavy, story results in a much stronger film.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2015 4:06 pm 
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Jubilation Street is Kinoshita's best film to date. It is more subtle and effective in the ways it supports the war, and its a relief to have the didactic monologuing severely reduced. The film celebrates the lives--and the sacrifices made--on the homefront.

Jubilation Street would be an almost perfect companion to Ozu's Record of a Tenement, With both set within small neighborhoods, the upbeat optimism of the World War II film would contrast beautifully to the downbeat cynicism of the Post War film.

The film is set within a neighborhood on the outskirts of Tokyo, it's a new development, built in the last decade or two, but now it is slated for demolition by the army, and the residents have been ordered to evacuate. The plot drifts from one resident to the next in a series of seamless changeoffs as we get to know this little community and the ways they are dealing with the disruption and loss of their homes. The film covers the entire breadth of the community's experience, from birth to death, from child to the elderly, from the deeply rooted to the feckless drifter, from nuclear families to broken homes, and of course from wealthy to poor. And for all that, the film is remarkably tight and compact, as small and intense as the community itself.
Naturally in focusing so small, Kinoshita shows us the universal experience. The film and the story are basically "Our Town," in Japan, although this story seems richer than the drudgery and dullness I associate with Wilder's play. probably because the play is de rigeour high school curriculum.

The film is beautifully made featuring great camerawork throughout the small set. and the performances and script are exceptional throughout. This is easily the strongest film of the set yet.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 10, 2015 10:46 am 
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Will need to check out Jubilation Street, despite my overall allergy to Kinoshita.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:12 pm 
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Army is a fascinating film both structurally and ideologically. It's fiercely focused and then wallops the audience with a final emotional thrust aimed directly at what I assume were predominantly female audiences at this time.

The film begins as The Living Magoroku began, during a battle in the past. This battle is not seen from the field, however, but from within the town. The town's side is losing out on the field, and the rout is begun. A family of merchants who had quartered an officer and his belongings are packing up to leave, the officer arrives to die on site and also to bequeath his complete collection of books of japanese history to them.

Fast forward a generation and the son has become the dieing father and bequeaths things on to his son, insisting that his son honorably join the army.

Fast forward, and the son, Chishu Ryu, is in the army, in an army hospital actually, and he is mortified that he did not see action and has not told his family he is safe, despite it being a battle with notoriously brutal casualty rates. He fell ill and was sent to the rear just before his unit engaged in battle. A wounded man befriends him, berates him, and tells him there is no shame in not seeing battle, there is only shame in avoiding telling his family he is okay.

The three prologues now concluded, the film's story can begin.

Fast forward and he is now a father, and his son is explicitly coded as either effiminate or gay. This is the central point of the film's plot, the family must toughen up this girly boy so that he can go join the army and serve and die with honor. The mother abusively berates the boy throughout the film, and the degree of viciousness is absolutely extraordinary. and that's deliberate, considering where the film is going in its final moments. Kinoshita plays the story of butching up this boy completely straight.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
And then you get to the ending. I think the intent, originally, was probably to give the women of the audience something they hadn't seen before, an acknowledgement of "their" sacrifice in raising these boys to give them to the army. The fact that the film landed at the point of the war when it did the reception was taken as vehemently anti army, when I think the intent was probably meant to be supportive of the homefront mothers--the problem is that mothers were not supposed to have these feelings or ambivalences, and even acknowledging they existed or portraying them, was utterly unacceptable.

And Kinoshita did not just portray these feelings, he builds them into a ten minute sequence of cinematic catharsis that is profoundly stunning silent filmmaking, worthy of Eisenstein, Murnau or Lang. In fact, in having the mother be so vicious in trying to get her son to be army material, the ending becomes that more powerful, because it effectively revises some of what we've seen before and suggests that regardless of the cultural script she acted out to try to raise her son to social norms, she profoundly loves him far more than she loves her country.

The ending functions as a stunning reversal, and if you overdetermine it and see the film from a postwar perspective, you could consider her search for her son amidst the parade as a metaphorical search for her son amongst the war dead, the ending seems to acknowledge that going to war is a one way ticket, and that leaves you with a stunning sense of bleak tragedy by the end of the film.

Given that Kinoshita sets up the story by establishing it as a story of a family's worship of militarism that begun a hundred years before, you could understand the film to be a fairly targeted attack on the sequence of history and culture that brought Japan into this disasterous war--in fact, that historical positioning is the "treasonous" perspective outlined by the dissident at the beginning of Morning for the Osone Family and I think perhaps Kinoshita considered the structural critique of Japanese culture/history to be the truly subversive part of the film, moreso than the human sentiment of the film's climactic catharsis.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2015 7:14 pm 
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Morning for the Osone Family is a complete 180 reversal from a film like The Living Magoroku. The film has the same sensibility of discordant propaganda monologuing throughout that you find in the first two films of this set. On the other hand, some of that monologuing feels really good to hear after watching the other films in this set and the kurosawa set. It's refreshing to get dissent, finally, and Kinoshita often sets it up that the female characters finally boil over in outrage while they are trampled on by the military uncle. So it's just as egregiously didactic as the earlier films--perhaps more so--but it feels so good to hear that I didn't even really mind it.

What did drive me crazy throughout the film was the bizarre sets. The film is set inside a western style house in Japan, and the scaling of the sets is wildly off in so many ways. This visually disrupted me throughout the film as the characters open doors that are ten feet tall, or look through doorways that seem six feet wide, with walls that extend twenty or more feet up (the few points of the film when an unfortunate lower angle is chosen you can see where they built on to the sets to make them taller so you don't see the top of the set wall as there are no cielings). Since the whole film is set within the Osone family house, you eventually get used to it, but it just looks 'wrong' in a lot of subtle ways.

The film opens at Christmas, with the Osone family singing Silent Night. This immediately cues us into the idea that this is a westernized Japanese family, perhaps even a christian family. The discussion that follows indicates the family is a left leaning group of intellectuals, the patriarch had lived and studied in France and his wife attended college as well. Their eldest son is a writer, and his just published an examination of the history and culture that brought Japan into this current war, he was careful not to make it sound critical, but he wanted to portray how they got there. Their middle son is a talented painter, and their daughter is intelligent and independent and their youngest son is a boy of fourteen or fifteen eager to join the war effort.

Christmas is disrupted by the twin events of the daughter's fiance being forced to leave (and breaking off their engagement since he didn't want to leave her a war widow) and the eldest son being arrested, sentenced and imprisoned as a political prisoner.

Next, enter the military, here symbolized by the nasty uncle who assumes the mantle of patriarchy for the family after the arrest of the son--in fact I took away the impression that I was meant to think that the uncle was responsible for the son's arrest, the film never explicitly says this, but the uncle seems to imply that he was proud to be responsible for that in one scene.

The uncle berates the painter brother for being a useless artist and immediately has him enlisted in the army and shipped away. He then puts the daughter directly under his thumb by employing her in his office--something she doesn't want because she doesn't want the special extravagant treatment the army lavishes on itself (there are several didactic moments in the film that directly criticize the army for the way they lived in high style and finery during the war at the expense of the civilians suffering and privation, and while this is probably true to some extent, the degree claimed here seems off). He also dissolves her engagement, then tries to marry her off, using her as the coin of graft in a business deal he was trying to grease along.

Then the aunt and uncle move in and take over the house literally rather than just metaphorically. Through it all suffers the mother, giving an extraordinary performance throughout the film--ultimately climaxing in a absurdly satisfying cathartic monologue attacking the uncle at the war's end. It reminded me of those absolutely wonderful speeches from women who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore found at the end of the best films from the Silent Naruse set. it's just a great moment to finally get the satisfaction of saying what cannot be said given the cultural strictures in place.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
naturally the middle son dies in Hiroshima, but of tuberculosis (I felt like the brief line about tuberculosis might be a sop to the american censors and the original intent might have been to have him die from fallout after the Hiroshima bomb).

The youngest son is recruited into the airforce, with the uncle enthusiastically granting permission for him to enlist before he's of age, over the mother's dissent, and naturally, akin to Ford's The World Moves On, the son dies on the final day of fighting. and since he was recruited into the airforce, it's implied he was one of the wasted lives flying kamikaze, essentially.

The film ends with the political dissident son being freed and the family staring together into the distance, vowing to rebuild a new Japan--of course MacArthur's fetish for royalty and militay prevented a Nuremberg esque accounting in Japan, and the election of a Republican Congress in the United States in 1948 resulted in them putting all their old friends (war criminals) that had run the zaibatsu's back into power, so ultimately men like the uncle were soon to be restored with no accountability for the war, but at the time Kinoshita made this film he had no idea that two years later people like the Osone family would again be crushed out of existance, as in the war. So the hope was warrented at the end of this film, but it's bitter to see knowing how badly things were about to turn for them.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:34 pm 
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Re: Army -- movie censorship was focused mostly on scripts -- so an ending described briefly in prose, with no dialogue might seem safe to censors -- but play out in a very unanticipated (to censors) fashion. I think that happened here. The ending got a mixed reception from officialdom, depending on how it was read in the context of the film as a whole.

Re: Osone Family -- this ultimately irritated me. It seemed to focus blame for the war (and its home front impact) pimarily on inherently rotten people (very like Kurosawa's No Regrets). Not nearly as good as Yamada's Kabei, that actually showed the process of ordinary (initially decent) neighbors being transformed in a bad way as the war went on. Sugimura is, of course, awesome as the mother.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:36 pm 
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Is Port of Flowers streaming anywhere? It's not on hulu, film struck, or Netflix I'd hate to have to buy a box set for one movie especially as I didn't really care for the other ones.


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