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Every Japanese Criterion Film, Ranked

by ConvictSasori

Created 01/21/18

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Every Japanese film released by the Criterion Collection, ranked from best to worst, in order of personal preference.

I'm in the process of adding short descriptions for every film on the list. It'll really take a while, but I hope I'll be done soon enough.

  • Few, if any films, portray the monotony, absurdity and weirdness of everyday life as this beautiful New Wave oddity by Hiroshi Teshigahara. The second and the best of the four collaborations between Teshigahara, novelist Kôbô Abe and composer Tôru Takemitsu, Woman in the Dunes takes a simple metaphor and imbues it with such a self-assured and hypnotic style that it almost seems overwhelming. Right from the brilliantly designed intro credits to the final scene which is loaded with emotion, the film is mesmerizing, a joy to watch. With its spine-chilling music, engrossing characters, beautiful claustrophobic visuals and a heavy mood encompassing it all, this is one of the very best films from the Japanese New Wave.

  • This eccentric masterpiece by Masahiro Shinoda is for sure one of the seminal films of the Japanese New Wave, and of world cinema. It is absolutely exuberant in its cinematic freedom; free from studio restrictions, the film tackles classic and timeless issues, but with stylistic autonomy that brings new life into the story. Based on Monzaemon Chikamatsu's famous bunraku play, Double Suicide retains its depiction of death as a response to stifling societal norms, but increases the sense of fatalism by adding eerie black-clad stagehands who manipulate the time and space of the film. What results is a comic, bizarre and terrifying depiction of determinism with lovely over-the-top stylized performances, delicious high-contrast B&W visuals and Tôru Takemitsu's wonderful music, which particularly shines in the unforgettable final scene.

  • Nobuhiko Ôbayashi's "House" captures the spirit of a child's imagination more vividly than any other film i can think of. This film is a labor of love and you can feel it in every frame. There are so many innovative visual effects, plot twists and outrageous ideas that it's one of the few films that I can say are completely unpredictable, and because the style and content are in such a strong symbiosis with one another the film never feels like it tries too hard. And while the story is officially a lament on the newer generation's lack of empathy for war horrors, I can't help but feel that the film's sympathies do lie with the young protagonists, whose horrifying symbolical transition into "adulthood" is portrayed like the ultimate horror.

  • This fantastic, dark New Wave jewel could possibly the best film directed by Imamura. Sometimes with movies that are long and depressing it's a bit difficult to get into them, but this one just zips by. A completely engaging, masterfully shot, tense and stunningly well-acted story about the conflict between characteristics of traditional Japanese lifestyle (spirituality and superstition, vitality) and those of constraining modern life (red tape, sterility, coldness), following a figurative goddess of fertility restricted by the suffocating societal forces. Opening with an effective scene that has to be one of Imamura's most direct and powerful comparisons of people to animals, Intentions of Murder grows more and more tense as it goes on, impelled by skillful editing and careful direction.

  • Anti-establishment director Masaki Kobayashi's "Harakiri" is a fierce critique of the inhuman feudal system whose ideals seem to influence Japanese mentality for decades after its demise. The film deals with the disturbing practice of ritual self-disembowelment and pulls no punches in taking a dump on the samurai code. The emotions are raw, the atonal music by Tôru Takemitsu is unsettling and wonderful, and the storytelling is very immersive. Kobayashi's absolute contempt for the Japanese society and its values is so harsh and palpable; even the highly formal way in which the actors move are seen as an alien, grotesque ritualistic behavior. The second best samurai film, after Toshio Matsumoto's Pandemonium (1971).

  • The original Ballad of Narayama is one of those films that linger in one's memory long after seeing them. Keisuke Kinoshita's masterwork is for sure one of the bleakest stories ever seen on film; portraying life as non-stop hardship, poverty, fear and hunger, all the while the creepy mountain of death looms in the background, and what adds to the creepiness of the story is how it contrasts with the highly colorful and bright sylized visuals. The film is famously theatrical and I really like that aspect of it, by being told in an old-timey fashion it underlines how timeless the tale is. It really starts to get going in the last twenty or so minutes, which are just bone-chilling. It grows more and more intense to wonderfully terrifying traditional music, by the end it was like someone punched me in the gut. Just an amazing film.

  • This is a film that I was a bit cold towards on my first viewing, expecting something similar to Woman in the Dunes, whereas this turned out to be a lot more talky and a bit too loaded. This film has really grown on me over time though. While I don't think it's Teshigahara's best as some people claim, I have to say that The Face of Another has some of the most memorable images and scenes I've ever seen in a movie. There's so much to love about it; Takemitsu's gorgeous waltz music, the creative sci-fi-ish sets, avant-garde editing, Tatsuya Nakadai's amazing performance, the overall eeriness and the shape of the narrative, with an emphasis on doubling motifs. Abe and Teshigahara construct a one-of-a-kind juxtaposition of the identity crisis of an individual and that of a country, with lots of gripping discussions about personality, faces, masks and identity.

  • Simply an amazing movie by Kaneto Shindô about the brutality of survival. In essence it's a subversion of the horror genre, where the malevolent force isn't a supernatural spook but instead the very world which the characters inhabit. This film is maybe the high point in the part of Shindô's filmography that's focused on sex, instincts and survival rather than politics, and its ragged dark tone does a fine job of capturing the harshness of nature. The film also does a good job of depicting the chaos and ruination that war leaves in its wake, with some poignant visual and methaporical throwbacks to Japan's wartime nationalism and the Hiroshima bombings. The B&W visuals are simply astonishing; smooth, dark and with tons of iconic shots, accompanied by Hikaru Hayashi's excellent primal score. Of course, the story is very fun to follow as well, and it all concludes with one of the best ending scenes I've ever seen in any movie.

  • When I first saw this, I hated it, and thought it was a bunch of nonsense. Now, I have to say that this is most likely one of the best movies ever made. I mean, there's just nothing else like this surreal neo-noir yakuza fever dream that got its director kicked out of the studio. The most amazing thing about it is that you never get the feeling that it tries too hard to be what it is; it's effortlessly insane. By the time Jô Shishido was shooting someone from underneath a car that he himself was pulling up a dock with a rope, I already succumbed to the film's nonsense world and at first didn't even notice there's something off about that. On top of all that, that B&W photography is to die for, it's seriously the most well-shot noir of all time, and the music is great too, and, well, everything is great.

  • Another excellent movie from one of the most underrated directors in history. The Naked Island, like Onibaba, depicts humans attempting to survive against various challenges nature throws in their way. It's such a fascinatingly raw, animalistic and chilling story that is, again like Onibaba, coated in deceptively serene, unwrinkled imagery. The film, famously without dialogue, particularly excels in its ending, which is just amazingly powerful. On top of all this, Hikaru Hayashi composes maybe the best score I've ever heard from him, it's absolutely beautiful stuff and some of the greatest scores I've heard for a film.

  • Right from the classy opening credits sequence, you know this is going to be a great movie. And, well, it is. It's the best film by Mikio Naruse and one of the best dramas from the classic era of Japanese cinema. It also stars Hideko Takamine and Tatsuya Nakadai, both of whom are among the greatest Japanese actors in general. This is a gripping, realistic drama with such a fine elegant style and a sordid story. While Naruse's view of society is more jaded than some of his contemporaries, the film also exudes a strong sense of idealism in its portrayal of a resilient woman battling life's obstacles and hardships. Of course, the protagonist's tragedy is as tangible as it is because of Takamine's masterful performance. This is a wonderful character study that also sports good jazz music and immaculate photography.

  • A fascinating atmospheric horror folk-tale with exquisite B&W expressionistic cinematography. The plot has similarities with Onibaba, but thematically, this one goes in a different direction altogether, while still remaining a great film. Unlike the cool raw grit of Onibaba though, Kuroneko has a different, yet equally strong style; it's mellow, darkly seductive and entrancing, occasionally dabbling in the waters of both the noble Noh theatre and the silly bakeneko monster flick, which certainly makes for an interesting stylistic concoction and I can't say I've seen another film quite like it. Awesome movie.

  • Shôhei Imamura dissects the chaos of Japanese post-War society in such an entertaining and easy-going fashion. Even though there's plenty of sub-plots and characters to follow here, it's very approachable and never becomes confusing. There's lots of good humor too, but the main attraction here is how Imamura's modern editing drives the story home and makes you really feel the soul of the era it portrays. Pigs and Battleships is an absolute rollercoaster of a film; fast-paced, funny, tragic, biting and well-acted. For sure one of the best satirical films I've seen.

  • This delightful and yet scarcely known film by Koreyoshi Kurahara is like a classic melodrama in the style of Naruse or Kinoshita that just happens to have stylish New Wave elements. A refined depiction of mad love adapted from a Yukio Mishima book, Thirst for Love was the final film Kurahara made for Nikkatsu, as its executives allegedly found it too artsy and delayed its release. Ruriko Asaoka is great as the lead of this ragged story full of sensual distress, that has a memorable ending and really great, somewhat impressionistic visual side, with eccentric editing, hand-held tracking shots and occasional splashes of red. Very underrated (or better yet - underseen?) film.

  • Kobayashi has done a number of cynical films and The Inheritance is perhaps one of his most engrossing, although it's rarely mentioned in discussions of his filmography. This particular work seems to attack some universal problems in human character, rather than mostly Japan-specific issues, as Kobayashi points his camera to greedy "respectable citizens" and dysfunctional family relations. Human greed is far from an original topic, but the style and the performances really make this movie work. The chiaroscuro work here is also just amazing; its soft, velvety B&W visuals creating an almost humorous contrast with the bitterness of the story. Very good Kobayashi film, and his most underrated.

  • Akira Kurosawa's most underrated film (as I see it), and, dare I say it, probably one of his best, is a windy social piece about lost souls stuck on the bottom of society. Its figurative depiction of the world as a dump whose life-weary inhabitants have only dreams and hopes to keep them going makes this for sure the darkest film Kurosawa ever made, and the feeling of helplessness is amplified by the claustrophobic theatrical location and the boxy aspect ratio which entraps the characters. I also really like the action scene midway through the film. A very good Kurosawa film, perhaps not what one would expect from him stylistically, but this is well worth a watch.

  • One of the best silent films to ever come out of Japan, and certainly one of the most depressing ones, Mikio Naruse's Every-Night Dreams excels both in its sophisticated technical approach and emotional appeal. Not only are Naruse's shots, cutting and the overall flow of the film a marvel to behold, but there's also great acting from everyone involved, especially lead actress Sumiko Kirishima. The story is one of the bleakest in Naruse's filmography for sure; it may be one of the most devastating Japanese films about social issues that I've seen so far, and the ending really pulls no punches. If you want to see a Naruse silent film, make it this one.

  • Akira Kurosawa's fierce critique of corruption in the corporate milieu (and, by extension, all of humanity) is an absorbing, cool drama with an excellent lead performance by Toshirô Mifune. It's a fine combination of cold realism and exciting movie-magic suspense, heavily inspired by Shakespeare's Hamlet though not its concrete adaptation. The film's opening sequence which bombards the viewer with info (I can't agree with everyone saying it's the best part of the movie) soon gives way to a tightly directed crime drama with a strong ending. This one seems like a counterpoint to Ikiru's approach to the theme of an individual's attempts to change the world around him.

  • Ozu's first talkie is a lovely, poignant melodrama about a mother-son relationship, that manages to be hard-hitting without any kind of emotional manipulation associated with the genre, which is impressive considering that his style wasn't yet as wonderfully detached as later in his career. While The Only Son isn't one of his very best efforts, the film is truly a small wonder, propelled by Ozu's careful editing and compositions and Chôko Iida's great performance.

  • Ozu's second-to-last film is a relaxed rumination on transience, both of the material world and of tradition. Despite some humorous moments throughout the film, there's a distinct sense of wistfulness that can only be found in Ozu's work, most notably in the ambiguous ending where ominous crows and music loom over characters stating their faith in the fixed circle of life, making this another Ozu film where his stance on fading traditional values is delightfully unclear. He was also the undisputed master of shot composition and this particularly shows in his color films; this is truly a minimalist visual spectacle.

  • A love-it-or-hate-it wild ride from Seijun Suzuki that does a very fine job of blending a tumultuous and almost grotesque story with silky smooth B&W visuals which are every so often absolutely beautiful. Using his stylistic flourishes, Suzuki brings to life this dynamic and unpredictable story (penned by great director Kaneto Shindô) that's essentially a straightforward joke; what could've been a somewhat cliched criticism of militarism by linking it to sexual repression ends up burning of originality from first to last frame thanks to Suzuki's anarchic disregard for conventional directing and storytelling.

  • This color remake of Ozu's own 1934 film opens with possibly the greatest pillow shots in his entire career, and proceeds to amaze with the wonderful color compositions and its breezy seaside town mood. It's one of the most visually stunning films Ozu has done, and worth watching just for that. The story isn't as tight as in the silent film, but the performances are all very good. It stands out a bit from Ozu's films of this period because, even though it also deals with familiar topics of relationship/family issues, it's much more relaxed in tone and the performances don't feel as tightly controlled.

  • Very entertaining and very trashy sci-fi horror flick about slimy alien silver sludges that telepathically carve vaginas onto people's foreheads and then enter them, causing their victims to become bloodthirsty vampires! There's also the plane setting which makes me compare this film to The Langoliers, to which it's definitely superior. It's just hilarious all around, there's an American actress who manages to out-ham everyone else (pretty much every performance is delicious over-acting anyway) and a clumsy anti-war message to boot. All-around entertaining and unpredictable, this film is a marvel.

  • A slick noir cool-fest that quickly turns into a violent bloodbath. Short, sweet and to the point. This one is not as stylish as the Nomura and Suzuki noirs but that doesn't make it any less fun to watch. Jô Shishido, who had a cheek enlargement surgery (!) so that he could look more suitable for roles in tough yakuza films, has a very cool presence and is the driving force of this solid caper (with a similar plot to Kubrick's The Killing?), which only loses its momentum at the strange final twist.

  • A film that stands out from the rest of Ozu's oeuvre because it's the closest he ever came to making full-blown propaganda, as the patriotic songs and strong, typically Japanese, themes of self-sacrifice and socio-familial duty that permeate the film take on a different meaning if we consider that this film was made in the heat of WWII. Beyond that, it's a typically endearing, emotional Ozu film that isn't one of his more accomplished works, but it's still effective and has a very good central performance by Chishû Ryû.

  • This is a jazzy, noir-ish examination and condemnation of the corruption, crime and widespread seediness of Japan some time after WWII. The writing here is hit-or-miss. Some characters are three-dimensional and realistic while some others make confusing and poorly scripted decisions. Likewise, the plot digressions following minor local characters are sometimes fun and sometimes tedious. But the film is ultimately a success thanks to great music, good performance with an emphasis on Tatsuya Nakadai's excellent antagonistic role, a powerful ending and a well-drawn sense of doom and moral decay. Also, I like the Saul Bass-esque opening credits.

  • Very lovely silent film by Hiroshi Shimizu which marries some experimental editing techniques with a pleasant story. Lyrical shots of landscapes and expressive performances enrich this charming and easily digestible tale that captures the contemporary anxieties about the looming Westernization of Japan. This isn't an immensely powerful film or anything, it's more of a small delight which rarely ever misses a beat.

  • This does blend a bit with the other Ozus since the subject matter of his works is quite repetitive; except here, Setsuko Hara plays the parent who wants their daughter to marry instead of playing the said daughter (this is like if there were an '80s action film where Chuck Norris would play the Russian villain). It's the most visually austere of Ozu's color films, limited to a palette of turquoise and brown, and is likewise as simple in terms of drama. A glacially paced, endearing drama that romanticizes the predetermined rout(in)es of life and the wobbly comforts of tradition. Nothing new for Ozu, but an alright watch, blessed with Mariko Okada's best role for an Ozu film. It's interesting that the older he got, Ozu's stance on his younger characters was more and more relaxed and approving.

  • Movies about the hopeless life of prostitutes, especially post-war prostitutes are nothing new and done to death both in Japan and anywhere else, but this filthy little hallucinogenic gem from Seijun Suzuki is something else entirely. It's like if a typical drama about post-war aimlessness got bombarded with exploitation-like artistic touches, surreal diversions and intrusions, a sense of comical dread and an emphasis on all that is grisly, perverted and beastlike. This was a good one.

  • Ozu's first color film continues dealing with recurring topics of his filmography. Essentially, this is another story about a generation clash set against the looming modernization of Japan, with an extraordinary sense for harmonious editing and shot composition that, together with the ending, helps illustrate Ozu's apparent view of life as a perfectly coordinated, balanced thing, making his films some sort of a cinematic equivalent of a zen garden. Equinox Flower is the most slow-paced and least eventful of Ozu's films, so it's not a film for an Ozu novice, but it's still pretty interesting.

  • What an unique movie! I don't think I've ever seen something like this before. A goofy, spooky pirate ghost story that's filmed in immaculate noir visuals, dripping in style and generally looking smooth as hell, with an accent on atmospherics. I also quite like the soundtrack. The problem here is the story, which is mostly contrived, a bit too convoluted and rarely uninteresting. Still, there's so much to like here that I'll more than likely give it a rewatch one day.

  • Kiarostami's final film is another vague, slow-paced rumination on alienated social relations and how arbitrary roles we play in social interactions shape our reality. Based on that description, this would seem like a movie I'd love, but I didn't find this to be effective, partly because by now I've seen a lot of similar movies and this one just didn't bring anything fresh to the table. The inorganic slow pace feels artifically constructed to try to add depth to the story, and the overarching topics are like an afterthought here, unlike Kiarostami's earlier work where they were more meaningfully explored. LSiL feels like phony festival-fodder in comparison. I'm such a sucker for this type of film that I'll likely rewatch it at some point though.

  • I've read that Ichikawa was coerced by the studio to make this film, a remake of a campy 1935 silent film with the same lead actor, to which he responded by turning the film into a playful mockery, with a silly story, inside jokes that break the fourth wall and super-stylized visuals. The problem is that the joke, while it has a slight charm, isn't very funny. The film is like an interesting precursor to Seijun Suzuki, but stuffed with overplotting which somewhat kills the enjoyment of its simple premise. The pretty visuals here are but a window dressing to a mildly amusing one-off joke which is smothered by a dull serpentine plot. Still, the film is unique enough that I want to rewatch it at some point.

  • This short film, based on the beloved Kabuki drama Kanjinchō, was banned by the Allied forces for its portrayal of feudal values, can also be read as an agitprop piece encouraging the audience to outwit the war enemies much like traditional Japanese heroes would. I'm not too sure what the actual message is, but I can tell you that this is the first "watchable" Kurosawa film. It's a simple story with good acting, notable for the appearance of comedian Ken'ichi Enomoto, which was deemed unnecessary and even disrespectful by the Japanese audiences.

  • Kon Ichikawa's assigned epic document of the 1964 Summer Olympics intends to be a paean to the human body and spirit, a testament to unity and a plea for world peace. Every once and a while, the film does deliver a strong sense of wonder and triumph, which is beautifully counterpointed by Ichikawa's focus on the mundane and ordinary, thus avoiding kitschy grandeur. He also manages to avoid the dryness associated with many documentaries and footage of sports in general; his film does indeed feel personal and human. Sadly, I think the film is too long and drags here and there. I'm also not interested in the subject matter, and it just isn't a film to stay in my memory. I can recognize the importance, but this is not for me.

  • A safe and sanitized adaptation of Jun'ichirô Tanizaki's famous novel about fading cultural traditions and one family's attempts to uphold them. The visual language of the movie contrasts rigid rituals and the uncaring passage of time, highlighting the absurdity of clinging onto customs that will surely fade away like anything else. But whereas the movie's visual side is very pretty, fittingly exalted in tone and blessed with that lovely 1980s Japanese film palette, the actual drama unfolding onscreen is rather pedestrian, doesn't command attention and constantly stagnates in spicelessness.

  • Simple anti-war melodrama made just after World War II, portraying the effects of the war on a troubled family. It's straight-forward and somewhat serviceable, but at this point in Kinoshita's career his style was still too austere and the only thing that carries this simplistic film are the fine performances. Atypically for a Japanese anti-war film, it ends on a hopeful note.

  • A silent comedic drama that ostensibly promotes family values and portrays the world as a harmonius whole where all drama is but a passing ripple on a calm and clean water surface. This is a very common worldview in all kinds of family dramas, sitcoms, stories etc., but it does seem more assured and zen-like whenever Ozu does it. And while this film does have a funny scene or two, the transition between the two sub-plots isn't smooth and it does all feel padded out, lacking the dramatic focus of Ozu's best movies.

  • Certainly a thematic anomaly in Ozu's oeuvre, Early Spring was made after the studio pressured Ozu to appeal more to the younger audience. The film is an indictment of the soul-sucking salaryman lifestyle, framed in the manner of a domestic melodrama, but unlike Ozu's other "youth" film, Tokyo Twilight, this one does not fully work. There are some fleeting moments of greatness, and the acting is very realistic and without maudlin sentiments, but the film is a plodding, inert drama with a redundant subplot. The visuals are aptly dim and shadowy, but not as engaging to look at as his other films. This obvious story doesn't succeed in sustaining two and a half hours, but I'm tempted to rewatch it at some point since there's a lot to like here otherwise.

  • Bittersweet slice-of-life melodrama about the realities of life in post-War Japan, and maybe the first Kurosawa film to present his motif of unattainable dreams being the only thing that keeps people going through poverty and the general shittiness of society. You can't deny that the film has a lot of heart, and that it's really poignant (and even cute and charming) in some scenes, but in other parts it comes dangerously close to weepy misery porn, and the pacing isn't really good; the film drags from time to time. There's a moment near the end that's really surprising and experimental, I wonder how audiences in 1947 reacted to it.

  • I find most of Ozu's silent works to be amusing but not something I'd remember a few days after I'd watched them, and Tokyo Chorus is not exception. This is a mixture between dramedy about family values and social commentary on economic issues, social status and unemployment. There are some fun times to be had here, but at this point Ozu's style wasn't mature yet and the film feels too loose, dragging a fair bit and failing to reach the impact of I Was Born, But...

  • Better than Walk Cheerfully but not as tense as That Night's Wife, Dragnet Girl is primarily worth watching because it's so divorced from the style of directing Ozu grew to be associated with. Stylistically, this is a cool little proto-noir influenced by the works of Josef von Sternberg, nothing too earth-shattering, but worth a watch for curiosity's sake, I guess.

  • Messy romance film that never quite comes together. Has an interesting first act, which is basically a quirky rom-com shot through Kurahara's playful lens (the intro credits are excellent, by the way), but close to halfway through the film, when the protagonist hits the road, is where the story gets dull, unsatisfactory and drawn out. There are attempted bits of social satire aimed at the media and celebrity culture, but they never feel cohesive. Not a good film at all, if you ask me.

  • Out of the three silent crime dramas from the start of Ozu's career, Walk Cheerfully is probably the weakest and most forgettable. Ozu seemed to be heavily influenced by American crime films from the period and this, while offering some cute brief stylistic touches such as locations with English text on the walls (also seen in his other crime flicks), also comes across as rather routine and overly simplistic.

  • This is a mediocre melodrama by Mikio Naruse that isn't especially bad in any way, but it never reaches the emotional heights of his other silent films and therefore I think it is the weakest out of those five movies. The editing style is dynamic and bold like in his other silents, but here it's all in service to a protracted story that gets dull after some time and which, despite featuring some good performances, is entirely forgettable.

  • A historically important and controversial film which was shelved by the studio for three years for its abrasive content, dealing with the treatment of imprisoned rank-and-file soldiers after WWII. Scripted by Kôbô Abe and occasionally featuring odd, slightly surreal touches reminiscent of German expressionism, this significant film nevertheless falters in its execution. With similar characters, a messy pace and several overly talky scenes, a story this impactful wasn't well handled by the yet unexperienced Kobayashi, although at some points it reaches raw emotion characteristic of his other works.

  • Kurosawa's most political film, and maybe his only film with a female protagonist, is ideologically a mirror image of his previous, nationalist works, since this film praises the American occupation as if to cast out wartime fascist demons. Setsuko Hara's character, who embodies feminism and the struggle of individualism against war ideology, is very well acted, but overall this is a dull, drawn out and forgettable morality tale. It's notable mainly because of its historical and political importance. Many of the cast and crew were living in poverty and hunger, which lends some gravitas to the film's message.

  • Unlike its more overtly propagandistic sequel, the first Sanshiro Sugata film was more subtle in its nationalism, attempting to exalt Japanese spiritual traditions in this story of an aspiring judo master. Kurosawa's debut is a simple and cliched story that is held afloat by some of his occasionally dynamic camera movements and two picturesque scenes in its second half. Nothing too memorable and a bit too slow, but passable.

  • The attractively titled I Will Buy You is the earliest film I can think of that extensively deals with the sports industry's skeletons in the closet, which also makes it the darkest and most cynical sports movie I've seen. Kobayashi here focuses on the behind-the-scenes machinations behind the game of baseball, but despite the interesting premise this is a rather mediocre and overly lengthy film about a simple subject. The cynicism of this film comes across as one-dimensional and repetitive after seeing other Kobayashi's films, all of which are more nuanced and entertaining.

  • A lighthearted, low-stakes, breezy and idealistic dramedy that devolves into a propaganda piece full of jingoistic zeal as the third act starts. Suddenly, the overarching plot becomes somewhat of an afterthought and the focus shifts to the agitprop message. Anyway, this isn't too bad of a film, it's just mediocre, which is understandable as it was Kinoshita's first film.

  • A lethargic propaganda piece celebrating glorious military history, until the subversive ending scene turns the film on its head and shows Kinoshita's actual opinion on the situation. Unsurprisingly, he got in trouble with Japanese censors for that ending and was prohibited to make another film until the war had ended. Aside from the ending, the movie itself is nothing to write home about, its biggest draw being Kinuyo Tanaka's excellent performance.

  • I have some respect for Kinoshita here because, while this is a state-ordered propaganda film, the overall message seems to be quite the opposite, which must've been a ballsy move on his part. The film was made to convince people to sacrifice all they have for the army and the noble pursuit of war, but the actual takeaway turns out to be that war is awful, depressing and takes heavy tolls on its citizens. This isn't a good film, though. It has uninspired performances, stiff directing and it's such in a bad shape that the background hum often eclipses the actors' voices. Still, the camerawork is good; the film may take place on a single location but visually it isn't repetitive.

  • Another mediocre WWII propaganda film telling the audience to do all in their might to help the war effort. What makes this particular film interesting is the conflict that arises since "helping the war effort" here means "plowing a revered family field to grow crops, thus desecrating family tradition", which is an uncommon plot point for a propaganda movie. Aside from that, it's a typical jingoistic drama, very predictable, and with a lazy ending to boot. It does have an atypical structure though, which stops it from being too monotonous - starts with a samurai battle intro and then goes through three coalescing subplots.

  • Very bad adaptation of Dostoevsky's classic novel which transports the plot to the bleakness of post-War Japan. On the one hand, there's a well-crafted sense of gloom and some nice snapshots of the photogenic island of Hokkaido. On the other hand, the studio butchered the film heavily, resulting in horrendous editing, some confusing character motivations and erratic pacing. The acting quality is haphazard, the story is excessively hokey and contrived, the music is sometimes annoying and the idealistic ending line is just awful. An absolute hot mess of a film, cheesy, boring and moralizing, not recommended in the slightest.

  • How can a movie with murderous and apparently telepathic insects, a blonde Holocaust survivor who wants to use said insects to rule the world, cheesy anti-war and slender anti-American imperialist sentiments, drug abuse, and Chico Roland, *possibly* be boring? Well, Genocide turned out to be a massive disappointment. This is just too slow, too talky, without a lot of spicy monster action, I almost fell asleep watching this. I think it's the worst of the four Shochiku horror films, as it doesn't saistfyingly deliver on any of its goofy premises. It's a peculiar historical curio, though.

  • It's disappointing that someone known for poking fun at consumerist shallowness would go on to make a movie that feels like a conformist imitation of mainstream products for kids. The film is just too derivative, a typical anime plot which does attempt to raise above the mold by tapping into social commentary regarding energy production and consumption, but this never lands and what we're left with is basically a live-action Pokémon copy. At least it's not too boring.

  • Boring WWII propaganda soc-realist film meant to motivate the audience to work hard and sacrifice everything for the war efforts. The characters are intentionally one-dimensional and interchangeable, and the story is just overwrought and silly from a today's standpoint. It isn't a complete waste, though. If nothing else, occasionally there's a pretty shot as Kurosawa finds all kinds of interesting ways to frame his heroines as a homogenous mass of people, and the performances do come off as heartfelt.

  • This propaganda movie about a Japanese judo master's match with an American boxer, produced to spread the idea that Japanese culture is superior to Western culture, is like a Japanese version of Rocky IV - except this is so mind-numbingly bad that it makes Rocky IV look like a masterpiece of the highest order. Besides some mildly humorous moments (some of them unintentional), this film is an utter wreck. The characters, dialogues and the second act are all really boring, the camera is static and dull compared to the previous film, and you can't even properly laugh at the stupidity of the plot because you'll more likely to fall asleep watching this. The final battle is also pretty laughable. A slapdash, sleep-inducing and utterly dumb movie, and definitely the worst Japanese film in the Criterion Collection.

1 comment

  • By Ghostdog
    February 02, 2018
    11:16 PM

    I can proudly say I've seen 75 of these movies and own at least 40. I enjoyed your reviews.
    Reply