Outside his native Japan, Kinji Fukasaku is probably best-known as one of two directors who stepped in to direct the Japanese segments of TORA! TORA! TORA! after Akira Kurosawa backed out. But over the course of a 40-year career that's still going strong (and still causing controversy: His most recent film, BATTLE ROYALE, managed to ignite quite a ruckus...read more
Outside his native Japan, Kinji Fukasaku is probably best-known as one of two directors who stepped in to direct the Japanese segments of TORA! TORA! TORA! after Akira Kurosawa backed out. But over the course of a 40-year career that's still going strong (and still causing controversy: His most recent film, BATTLE ROYALE, managed to ignite quite a ruckus in Japan), Fukasaku has directed everything from THE GREEN SLIME and the wonderfully campy BLACK LIZARD to a string of highly regarded yakuza thrillers that have made a fan out of no less a genre aficionado than Quentin Tarantino. In 1972, however, Fukasaku directed something entirely different: an unflinching, startlingly ferocious look back on the disastrous losses suffered by Japan during World War II. Twenty-six years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki effectively put an end to nearly 15 years of Japanese aggression in the Pacific, Mrs. Togashi (Sachiko Hidari), a Japanese war widow, is still seeking answers to the many questions surrounding the death of her husband, an army sergeant. Every armistice day, Mrs. Togashi pays a visit to the Welfare Ministry and petitions for the pension to which she believes she's entitled under the Bereaved Families Relief Law. But each year she's turned away. Officials tell her that the few records kept during the chaos of the war's end indicate that her husband was court-martialed and executed for desertion on a remote island in New Guinea; the Japanese government, therefore, owes her nothing. Refusing to believe her husband was capable of desertion, Mrs. Togashi seeks out four survivors of her husband's garrison who may know the truth truth that could either redeem her husband's honor, or further condemn his name to infamy. Blending horror-movie shocks and Sam Peckinpah-style violence with black-and-white stills of all-too-real wartime atrocities, Fukasaku has created an effective anti-war film in which virtues like patriotism and honor take a severe beating, and war is shown to be about little more than wholesale slaughter. Events whiz by in a horrific blur of images that include mutilation, cannibalism, madness, starvation and suicide, and the truth is once again shown to be just one of many wartime casualties. It's a rare version of events told from the other side, and it's a blistering, altogether unforgettable experience. (In Japanese, with English subtitles.)
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