Sunday, August 30, 2009


Death by Hanging / [Hirttotuomio] / [Dömd att hängas]. JP 1968. PC: Sozosha, Art Theatre Guild. P: Nagisa Oshima, Masayuki Nakajima, Takuji Yamaguchi. D: Nagisa Oshima. SC: Tsutomu Tamura, Mamoru Sasaiki, Michinori Fukao, Nagisa Oshima. DP: Yasuhiro Yoshioka - b&w - VistaVision. AD: Jusho Toda. M: Hikaru Hayashi. ED: Sueko Shiraishi. CAST: Do-yun Yu / Yun Do Yun (R, the convict on death row, to be hanged), Hosei Komatsu (district attorney), Kei Sato (prison warden), Fumio Watanabe (education officer), Toshiro Ishido (catholic priest), Masao Adachi (chief of guards), Mutsuhiro Toura (doctor), Masao Matsuda (secretary of the D.A.), Akiko Koyama (Korean woman), Shizui Sato (prison guard), Takashi Ueni (prison guard). Commentary read by: Nagisa Oshima. 118 min. Print: New Yorker Films, with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, 29 Aug 2009. - A duped print with an uneven quality of definition, from soft to better, but never worthy of the film's VistaVision origins. The subtitles are sharp. - One of three of Oshima's greatest masterpieces, together with Gishiki and Etsuraku. - The brilliant black comedy starts as a thesis film in the tradition of André Cayatte and Fritz Lang, with text and commentary only, but then there is a sharp turn to an original and macabre development. - The execution fails, the convict called R survives, but his personality has changed, and he has lost his memory. He does not even recognize concepts like "family" and "desire". - The desperate officials start to perform an elaborate series of reconstructions to teach R from scratch who he is... what his crime is... and what life is... The boundary between reality and hallucination is blurred, as a simulated woman materializes at least to many of those present. The woman is the most eloquent of them all. - The woman is Korean, and the theme of racism surfaces. In the drunken revel of the officials, their own sexual and violent obsessions surface. - The film is a witty philosophical reflection. What I did? What I am? - R accepts being R for the sake of all the R's. - In the final double execution there is a void at the end of the rope.

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