Poll

What's your favorite film by Kon Ichikawa?

Kokoro (The Heart)
0 (0%)
The Burmese Harp (1956)
2 (8.3%)
Enjo (Temple of the Golden Pavillion)
0 (0%)
Kagi (Odd Obsession)
0 (0%)
Fires on the Plain
3 (12.5%)
Being Two Isn't Easy
0 (0%)
An Actor's Revenge (Revenge of a Kabuki Actor)
5 (20.8%)
Alone on the Pacific
1 (4.2%)
Tokyo Olympiad
1 (4.2%)
The Inugami Family (1976)
1 (4.2%)
Hi no tori (Firebird)
0 (0%)
The Makioka Sisters
0 (0%)
The Burmese Harp (1985)
0 (0%)
Princess from the Moon
0 (0%)
The 47 Ronin
0 (0%)
Dora-heita (Alley Cat)
0 (0%)
The Inugamis (2006)
0 (0%)
other (specify)
0 (0%)
haven't seen any
11 (45.8%)
don't like any
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 23

Author Topic: Ichikawa, Kon  (Read 1313 times)

MartinTeller

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Re: Ichikawa Kon - Director's Best
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2014, 06:38:27 PM »

Princess from the Moon - The bamboo cutter Taketori (Toshiro Mifune) and his weaver wife Tayoshime (Ayako Wakao) have just lost their 5-year-old daughter Kaya (Miho Nakano).  But then a meteor shower in the nearby woods deposits a strange artifact.  Taketori finds a pod, from which emerges a baby girl.  The girl instantly grows into the spitting image of Kaya.  The couple adopt the girl as their own and name her Kaya, believing her to be a gift from the heavens.  Kaya rapidly grows into a stunning young woman (Yasuko Sawaguchi).  Taketori discovers the pod is made of gold, and the family escapes from poverty into high society.  Kaya's beauty catches the attention of three prosperous suitors.  She sends them on impossible missions to win her love, hoping that the sincere one will prevail.  And then she learns more about her mysterious origin, and what plans are in store for her.

Never mind the presence of Mifune and Wakao, who by this time had each delivered stellar performances for over three decades.  They're wasted here in flat roles that make little use of their talents (and Sawaguchi mostly just does a lot of wide-eyed gaping).  You can also ignore the fact that this is directed by Kon Ichikawa, who gave us greats like Revenge of a Kabuki Actor, Fires on the Plain, and The Burmese Harp.  This is a messy and weak disappointment of a film.  You would think the novelty of taking a 10th-century fantasy tale and injecting it with sci-fi elements would be exciting.  But no.  The film sports some gorgeous photography with eye-popping colors, but little else about it inspires.

There's no humor in it, no pathos, no insight, no dramatic conflict worth speaking of.  There's no passion.  It holds together enough to be watchable, but it's a fairly empty experience.  It just... bops around from plot point to plot point.  Much of it is clearly inspired by E.T. and significant elements of the ending are downright stolen from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I mean, some of the shots are exactly the same... there were even a couple that looked like they might have been lifted directly from Spielberg's movie. 

This all ought to at least be weird enough to be interesting, but Ichikawa fails to convey or elicit any sense of wonder.  Nor is there much thought or curiosity put into how the fantastic elements of the story work.  Why she does have just these two instant growth spurts?  Apparently it doesn't matter, it just takes the plot where it needs to go.  Why does the color of her eyes change?  That one's a real puzzler... they seem to make a big deal out of it for a second, but it doesn't make a difference either way.  It's another thing in the movie that in the end isn't worth caring about.

As is often the case with Ichikawa's later films, it's hampered by a cheesy score.  Not only that, but Peter Cetera's "Stay With Me" plays over the end credits.  It's a cornball tune, but such a bizarre choice that it makes for one of the few intriguing aspects of the film.  Rating: Poor (50)
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MartinTeller

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Re: Ichikawa Kon - Director's Best
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2015, 05:58:45 PM »

Kokoro - Nobuchi (Masayuki Mori) is a scholar who does not work.  Practically the only time he leaves the house is to visit the grave of his friend Kaji (Tatsuya Mihashi).  Although thoughtful and of even temper, he has a sour outlook on life, is distrustful of others, and is dismissive towards his wife Shizu (Michiyo Aratama), who longs to be let in.  His only friend is the student Hioki (Shôji Yasui), who looks up to Nobuchi as a "sensei".  Nobuchi is clearly haunted by something, and after the death of Emperor Meiji -- and the subsequent suicide of General Nogi --  he decides it is time to trust Hioki and reveal his troubled past.

This film comes nine years into Kon Ichikawa's career as a director, but it is the earliest I've seen so far.  A year later he would direct one of his acknowledged masterpieces, The Burmese Harp.  The two movies share some similarities, both presenting a psychological mystery and gradually revealing what brought the main character to his current state.  This earlier film is less canonized (although it was released by the prestigious Masters of Cinema company in the UK) but I would call both of them films of significant value and mastery.

To say too much about what is revealed about Nobuchi's past would rob you of the experience of having it so elegantly unfold.  Through flashback we first learn the nature of how Nobuchi met Hioki, and later we take an extended break from the present to explore the complex history of Nobuchi and Hioki.  Even at the end when supposedly all is revealed, there is an ambiguity remaining, something left unsaid that gives the story more tragic depth.

Death looms over the proceedings.  The death of Kaji, the impending death of Hioki's father (Mutsuhiko Tsurumaru), the death of the emperor and his loyal general, and the death of an era.  Many people killed themselves in the wake of Meiji's death, and Nogi's suicide appears to get Nobuchi's wheels turning.  This is a darker and far less hopeful film than Burmese Harp, but it has a profound impact as it examines the psychological, spiritual, and moral complexities of its characters.  Beautifully nuanced performances by the stellar cast (and Yasui would later star in Harp) with excellent cinematography and scoring that is expressive without being intrusive.  A sorrowful, affecting picture.  Rating: Great (90)
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Antares

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Re: Ichikawa Kon - Director's Best
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2015, 07:15:06 PM »
Has this been released on DVD?

MartinTeller

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Re: Ichikawa Kon - Director's Best
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2015, 07:24:41 PM »
In the UK, not here
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Antares

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Re: Ichikawa Kon - Director's Best
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2015, 07:31:04 PM »
BFI or Eureka!?

MartinTeller

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Re: Ichikawa Kon - Director's Best
« Reply #15 on: February 01, 2015, 07:37:42 PM »
Eureka
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Corndog

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Re: Ichikawa Kon - Director's Best
« Reply #16 on: March 29, 2016, 08:11:37 PM »
1. An Actor's Revenge (3)
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

1SO

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Re: Ichikawa, Kon
« Reply #17 on: March 03, 2019, 10:59:02 PM »
1. The Inugami Family
2. The Burmese Harp
3. Tokyo Olympiad

4. Fires on the Plain
5. Revenge of a Kabuki Actor
(aka. An Actor's Revenge)
« Last Edit: March 18, 2019, 10:01:08 PM by 1SO »
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1SO

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Re: Ichikawa, Kon
« Reply #18 on: March 18, 2019, 10:12:47 PM »
The Burmese Harp (1956)
★ ★ ★ – Good
I’m a very different person than I was on my first viewing back in 2011, where I write like I was watching this film against my will. The story is very original and intelligent, taking an indirect approach to Japan’s long road of healing at the end of WWII. My appreciation may be boosted by my recent viewing of Kinji Fukasaku’s Under the Flag of the Rising Sun, but that film from 1972 treated Japan’s defeat as an open wound while this one from much closer to the war’s end is about looking inward to find peace. Both films deserve to be remembered and regarded, important documents of Japanese feelings made cinematic by two filmmakers who understand the language of sound, editing and composition.


Fires on the Plain (1959)
★ ★ ½
It seems my opinions (and ratings) have flipped on these two films. I think it’s because years later, I’m more drawn to the sorrow and clever story structure of Burmese Harp than the angry slaps to the face of Fires on the Plain. Between the two viewings I’ve also seen The Human Condition, which has some crossover of time and place. Ichikawa is different enough (or as Martin calls it “intriguingly stylized,”) but there’s a one-of-a-kind slant to Harp, while this reminds me of the unceasing bleakness of Alejandro González Iñárritu, with the advantage of this being an appropriate context for such darkness.


An Actor’s Revenge (1963)
★ ★ ½
I wish I didn’t have to write this, and I was surprised how much of what I said in 2011 rang true today. I was all ready for something visually daring and there are a number of impressive shots, but way too much of the film is static talking scenes. (I even doubted I was watching the right film because this isn’t how Martin describes it at all.) I kept thinking of other Japanese classics that give me the same cinema high this gives MT, from the classy Kwaidan to the genre Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold. This is now my least favorite of the three re-watches.


Tokyo Olympiad (1965)
★ ★ ★ – Okay
I wonder why the decision to make a documentary like this has only happened twice. Why are filmmakers like Danny Boyle and Zhang Yimou handling the bookend ceremonies, when they could play around with the sights and sounds of the Olympic Games? The overall sound mix here is terrific. While I don’t understand a lot of the decisions, I liked how Ichikawa would change things up now and again. It helps because cataloguing all the events makes for a painstakingly long viewing. (Really appreciated the Intermission.)


The Inugami Family (1976)
★ ★ ★ – Good
Now I really hope to see more of Ichikawa's genre work because his style works well to blend this Agatha Christie style murder mystery's two different tones, static family drama and gruesome Japanese grindhouse. I'm giving it some benefit of the doubt because it would've really helped to watch this with a pad and pen to keep all the names straight, but I never got too lost. I don't think it's the script as much as my unfamiliarity with the cast. The Burmese Harp is more important subject matter and makes more of a lasting impression, so I can see why that would get the Criterion treatment, but this was more fun than I expected, and I would love for a box set of Ichikawa mysteries.
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Knocked Out Loaded

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Re: Ichikawa, Kon
« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2019, 03:00:21 PM »
Tokyo Olympiad, 35˚
Extraordinary (81-100˚) | Very good (61-80˚) | Good (41-60˚) | Fair (21-40˚) | Poor (0-20˚)