Director Kôhei Oguri made a name for himself with his directorial debut, it is one of my favourites films, The Muddy River (1981). A coming-of-age tale of two young boys living in poverty of post-WWII Japan. It was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film and won many awards in Japan. I know he is a big influence on contemporary Japanese filmmakers like Katsuhito Ishii. In all Oguri movies, there is a pattern where he films the story about people who love to talk about it or listen to to it as it unfolds. I love all his works including his 2015 biographical film based on the life of Foujita, a Japanese artist who lived through bohemian Paris at the beginning of the 20th century, a friend of Picasso, Modigliani and Juan Gris, among other strangers from Montparnasse.
This film is so scandalously overlooked in his filmography. I have never seen this make to the conversation when cinephiles talk about Oguri. Having no balance is what makes the charm of this Zainichi (Korean-in-Japan) Cinema. Do not fall into the trap of classic arthouse love story with long takes and just conversations from start to finish. This film is adapted from Lee Hwe-Song's 1975 novel of the same name, it follows two lovers, a second-generation Korean undergraduate SanjunIm and Kayako, a Japanese girl who is adopted by a Japanese mother and a Korean father. They get explore each others identity, heritage while telling stories as the landscape helps to accentuate this bleak drama. There are situations, past and borders that stops them from coming close, as the film moves there is more external and internal circumstances that is revealed. Oguri does not prescribe dramaturgy and does not overwhelm his story with pathos. Rather, he leaves his landscape, background score and the narration to do the talking.
Coming to the music, there is a torrid outburst of agrression, it is captured breathtakngly with help of landscapes as subjects and with the amazing score composed by Kurodo Mori. There is much needed moment of serenity for the identity crisis that the film showcases. I was surprised with the score, it featured a Japanese Jailhouse rock. The subtlety of his choice is brilliant, without making much noise, but adds a more melodic and melancholic feel to the film, always carried by the sometimes warm, sometimes sorrowful.
The boat scene when Kayako reveals her true identity, her actual name is Miwako (wait for the last scene) and gives a background about her past, the meaning of her name, a Korean harp. The scene towards the end when both down on the street trying to hear the sound of the water running underground is one of the best moments in the film. There is a reference to Keisuke Kinoshita's A Broken Drum (1949), i had seen it long back and still dislike the father character in the film.
It will feel incomplete and mundane for many as it becomes as bleak as the weather throughout the runtime. But I would not recommend it to everyone, might be of interest to arthouse fans, will worth some time if you have it. You can add this along with legendary Kei Kumai's The Long Darkness (1972) as a double bill, i bet it will be bittersweet viewing.
Loading video, please wait...
A film about the substantial population of Koreans living in Japan, and the love affair between Kayako, a Japanese girl, and Im, a Korean.
Uploaded by: FREEMAN
November 21, 2022 at 06:44 PM