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TitleDirectory of World Cinema: Japan (IB - Directory of World Cinema)
PublisherIntellect Ltd
ISBN 139781841503356
CategoryArts - Film
File Size4.3 MB
Total Pages301
Table of Contents
                            Preliminary Pages
Introduction by the Editor
Film of the Year
Festival Focus
Industry Spotlight
Cultural Crossover
Alternative Japan
Anime / Animation
Chambara / Samurai Cinema
Contemporary Blockbusters
Jidaigeki & Gendaigeki / Period & Contemporary Drama
J-Horror / Japanese Horror
Kaiju Eiga / Monster Movies
Nuberu Bagu / The Japanese New Wave
Pinku Eiga / Pink Films
Yakuza / Gangster
Recommended Reading
Japanese Cinema Online
Test Your Knowledge
Notes on Contributors
Document Text Contents
Page 1


ndirectory ofworld


Page 2

AfricAn / nigeriAn
AmericAn – Hollywood
AmericAn – independent
eAst europeAn
spAnisH / portuguese
soutH AmericAn / brAziliAn
rest of tHe world (including
isrAel, koreA, denmArk,
finlAnd, norwAy And icelAnd,

The Directory of World Cinema aims to bring a

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directory of


Page 150

148 Japan

Directory of World Cinema

from the irresolution of light, the film also uses painterly compositions
of figures in depth, particularly in the presentation of groups. Whilst
as a ‘chorus’ most soldiers receive little individuation, this contrasts
with the abrupt shift at the end of the film, in which the sporadic
voice-over is revealed as not emanating from Inouye but from one of
the anonymous soldiers. This is coupled by the film’s occasional use
of close-ups, where the characters are strangely expressionless rather
than emotive and, rather than a melodramatic representation of the
horrors of war, the film’s strength is perhaps the way image and music
can thus so effectively carry vacillating memories and feelings.

christopher Howard


A wealthy shoe executive, Gondo (Toshiro Mifune), attempts to
stealthily take over the company from greedy shareholders in an effort
to save the company he cares about so strongly, and has worked at
for years. But when his son is kidnapped outside his mountaintop
mansion while playing with the chauffeur’s son, his attentions are
understandably diverted. Gondo agrees to the kidnapper’s demands
and to pay the ransom, until it is discovered that it was not Gondo’s
son snatched but the chauffeur’s. Gondo initially refuses to pay the
money, justifying that if he were to allocate the takeover money to the
kidnapper he would be ruined financially, as he has borrowed against
his home and property. Gondo’s honour and decency wins out, how-
ever, and he agrees to pay the ransom, but the hand-over does not
go as planned.


Building on the moral and socio-economic thematic concerns that
are dealt with to varying degrees in his earlier crime films – Stray Dog
(1949), examining how everyday people were forced into criminal acts
to survive and The Bad Sleep Well (1960), with its corporate violence
– High and Low finds Kurosawa and his screenwriters clearly delineat-
ing how capitalism divides and conquers in the post-war Japan of big
business, leaving a few to reap the rewards and the majority to sweat
it out in poverty. While the film is not overtly political, as it is first
and foremost a masterpiece of police detection, not psychology or
politics, Kurosawa does seem troubled by the capitalist reimagining of
Japan after the US occupation and of a forced democracy that aimed
to extinguish the equally problematic economic structure that led to
World War II in the first place. Yokohama, teeming with drunken US
servicemen, Japanese drug addicts wasting away in filth and squalor,
and a wealth of material goods gleaming in storefront windows ready
to be purchased by the emerging middle class consumer, is a city
stratified to extremes.

High and low
Tengoku to jigoku


Toho Company, Ltd.


Akira Kurosawa


Ryuzo Kikushima
Tomoyuki Tanaka


Hideo Oguni
Eijiro Hisaita
Ryuzo Kikushima
Akira Kurosawa


Asakazu Nakai
Takao Saito

art director:

Yoshiro Muraki


Masaru Sato


Reiko Kaneko


143 minutes

Page 151

Directory of World Cinema

Gondo, a decent man who has worked his way up through the com-
pany from the bottom, is seemingly oblivious to the economic realities
literally festering below his big house on the hill, and becomes an
easy target for the kidnapper, who can see Gondo’s residence from his
claustrophobic, stiflingly-hot, shack. But despite expertly showing how
an environment can breed criminal behaviour in some individuals,
Kurosawa makes no excuses for the crime. Although the kidnapper’s
actions are given no justification other than envy for Gondo’s wealth,
the crime nevertheless seems rooted in something more intangible
and inexcusable. By the end of the film, when the shrewd yet earnest
Gondo agrees to meet with the man responsible for bringing so much
destruction to so many lives, the businessman is forced to confront
the harsh reality that there is nothing to be learned from this kidnap-
per and murderer.

Kurosawa is working at the height of his craft here, as are his long-
time cinematographers Nakai and Saito, who utilize the telephoto
lens to magnificent and meaningful effect throughout. The film’s lurid
subject matter would seem to impose an overwrought, sensationalistic
approach to the material. But by focusing on the minutiae and drudg-
ery of police work and by framing his actors in rigorously-composed
telephoto shots for most of it, sentimentality thankfully has no room to
fester. It is a frequently astonishing work, and one that confirmed that
Kurosawa did not have to visit the past with samurai warriors in furious
tow in order to achieve great meaning.

derek Hill


Toshiro Mifune
Tatsuya Nakadai
Kyoko Kagawa



High And Low, 1963. Produced by Toho

Page 301

From the revered classics of Akira Kurosawa to the modern marvels
of Takeshi Kitano, the films that have emerged from Japan represent
a national cinema that has gained worldwide admiration and
appreciation. The Directory of World Cinema: Japan provides an
insight into the cinema of Japan through reviews of significant titles
and case studies of leading directors, alongside explorations of the
cultural and industrial origins of key genres. The cinematic lineage
of samurai warriors, yakuza enforcers and atomic monsters take
their place alongside the politically charged works of the Japanese
new wave, making this a truly comprehensive volume.

Intellect’s Directory of World Cinema aims to play a part in moving
intelligent, scholarly criticism beyond the academy by building a
forum for the study of film that relies on a disciplined theoretical
base. Each volume of the Directory will take the form of a collection
of reviews, longer essays and research resources, accompanied by
film stills highlighting significant films and players.

intellect |

EDITED by John bErrA


Directory of World Cinema ISSn 2040-7971
Directory of World Cinema eISSn 2040-798X

Directory of World Cinema: Japan ISbn 9781841503356
Directory of World Cinema: Japan eISbn 9781841503561

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