Masaki Kobayashi

Black River

Black River

Perhaps Masaki Kobayashi’s most sordid film, Black River examines the rampant corruption on and around U.S. military bases in Japan following World War II. Kobayashi spirals out from the story of a love triangle that develops between a good-natured student, his innocent girlfriend, and a coldhearted petty criminal (Tatsuya Nakadai, in his first major role) to reveal a nation slowly succumbing to lawlessness and violence.

Film Info

  • Japan
  • 1956
  • 110 minutes
  • Black & White
  • 1.33:1
  • Japanese

Available In

Collector's Set

Eclipse Series 38: Masaki Kobayashi Against the System

Kobayashi Against the System

DVD Box Set

4 Discs


Black River
Ineko Arima
Fumio Watanabe
Tatsuya Nakadai
Isuzu Yamada
Masaki Kobayashi
Produced by
Ryotaro Kuwata
Developed by
Ninjin Club
Original story
Takeo Tomishima
Zenzo Matsuyama
Yuharu Atsuta
Production design
Shukei Hirataka
Yoshiyasu Hamamura
Chuji Kinoshita


Eclipse Series 38: Kobayashi Against the System
Eclipse Series 38: Kobayashi Against the System

Four of the great Japanese director’s lesser-known, early films show the coming into being of a political artist.

By Michael Koresky

From the Eclipse Shelf: Black River
From the Eclipse Shelf: Black River
In the 1950s, many Japanese directors made films that urgently reflected the postwar realities of their country, from economic struggle to nuclear fallout. Another common theme was the influence of American culture on Japan, as seen in films by Nagis…


Tatsuya Nakadai


Tatsuya Nakadai
Tatsuya Nakadai

A dynamic, handsome star who got his start in Japanese cinema during its 1950s golden age, the Tokyo-born Tatsuya Nakadai defies easy categorization. He is convincing whether playing a mercenary lone wolf or a heartsick love interest, a hero or a villain, in a sleek suit or samurai robes, and just as comfortable blending in to an ensemble as commanding a spotlight. The stage-trained actor was discovered, while working as a shop clerk, in 1953 by director Masaki Kobayashi, who promptly cast him in a tiny role in the controversial drama The Thick-Walled Room; a year later, he was given a walk-on part in Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. After a major breakthrough as a young yakuza in Kobayashi’s Black River, Nakadai was on his way to becoming one of Japan’s busiest actors; he would work several more times with both Kobayashi and Kurosawa, as well as Hideo Gosha, Kon Ichikawa, Mikio Naruse, Kihachi Okamoto, and Hiroshi Teshigahara—the cream of the nation’s crop of film artists. Nakadai, still acting into his eighties, is perhaps most often recalled for his ravaging performances in Kobayashi’s epic war drama The Human Condition (1959–61) and Kurosawa’s Ran (1985), in which he embodies unforgettably a cinematic King Lear for the ages.