Thursday, August 27, 2009

Amakusa Shiro Tokisada / Shiro Amakusa: The Christian Rebel

天草四郎時貞 / [Shiro Amakusa: kristitty kapinallinen] / [Shiro Amakusa: den kristna rebellen]. JP 1962. PC: Toei. EX: Yasutaro Kon. P: Hiroshi Okawa. D: Nagisa Oshima. SC: Nagisa Oshima, Toshira Ishido. DP: Shintaro Kawasaki ‒ b&w ‒ Shochiku Grandscope 2,35:1. M: Riichiro Manabe. ED: Shintaro Miyamoto.
    CAST: Hashizo Okawa (Amakusa Shiro Tokisada), Satomi Oka (Sakura), Ryutaro Otomo (Shinbei Oka), Rentaro Mikuni (Uemonsaku), Sayuri Tachikawa, Takamaru Sasaki, Choichiro Kawarazaki, Takao Yoshizawa, Kei Sato, Mutsuhiro Toura. 100 min.
    A Kawakita Memorial print with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 26 Aug 2009.

Another surprise from the young Nagisa Oshima: a full-blooded jidai-geki, with grand, tragic action, and reversing samurai expectations with a novel aspect: Christianity, which takes (or should take) literally Jesus' word of turning the other cheek.

In 1637, peasants are bitterly oppressed by the landlord, and the oppression is enforced by the cruel samurai. The sadism of the oppressors with their torture chambers is underlined. Women are fair game for the landlord, too. The debates among the Christian peasants are thrilling. But finally they are driven to such despair that they start to rebel against impossible odds. 37.000 Christian believers died in action led by Shiro of Amakusa.

The visual concept is bold (DP: Shintaro Kawasaki): the picture starts in the dark, and much of the action takes place at night. The takes are often static but intensive. Then there are huge, expressive close-ups. In the action scenes the scope frame is brilliantly put into use.

The music by Riichiro Manabe is original and effective: muted but compelling, portentous without over-emphasis, relying on the power of the image, his sound is unique and memorable.

A film of tragic grandeur.

The print is watchable but with a duped look, deep black often missing. The image gets better towards the end.

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