Monday, June 8, 2015

Film Capsule: Masaki Kobayashi's Black River (1956)


Black River (1956)
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi

Bleak and brazenly lurid, this mid-fifties Shochiku production announced with clarion impenitence a sea change in both the conception and perception of modern Japanese cinema. Set in and around a debilitated tenement building on the outskirts of an American military base, and centered on a naïve university student (Fumio Watanabe) whose ideals are challenged when his passion for a young woman (Ineko Arima) with a sordid secret gets caught in the crossfire of an unforgiving crime syndicate led by a brash, live-wire yakuza boss (Tatsuya Nakadai), the film is dark and deliciously cynical, its tone appropriately reflective of the post-war Japanese cultural condition. In his first collaboration with Nakadai, the then-upstart director Kobayashi is equally bold in his narrative and stylistic conceits, mixing genre elements and subverting social niceties in a manner which would soon become synonymous with the nascent Japanese New Wave. (May 17, 5pm at the Museum of the Moving Image’s Kobayashi/Nakadai series) [The L]

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