THE HUMAN CONDITION - THE ROAD TO ETERNITY
NINGEN NO JOKEN II
1959, Janus Films, 181 min, Japan, Dir: Masaki Kobayashi

At the end of the first installment, Tatsuya Nakadai’s attempt to work good in an evil system fails when everything the system represents conspires against him. In the second film, Nakadai is drafted and sent into a barbaric regimen of training as a punishment for his refusal to give up his humanist principles. The Soviet Union declares war on Japan, and its galvanized army floods into Manchuria. Enduring the horrors of the battlefield as well as abuse from many of his fellow soldiers for his pacifist reputation, Nakadai tries his best to stay in touch with his long-suffering wife (Michiyo Aratama). “THE HUMAN CONDITION was made at around the same time as Satyajit Ray’s APU trilogy and Luchino Visconti’s ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS, and like them it is a work of large-scale realism grounded in a thorough but undogmatic left-wing political sensibility … amazingly powerful in its emotional sweep and the depth of its historical insight.” – A.O. Scott, The New York Times.


THE HUMAN CONDITION - NO GREATER LOVE
NINGEN NO JOKEN I
1959, Janus Films, 208 min, Japan, Dir: Masaki Kobayashi

In real life, director Masaki Kobayashi (KWAIDAN) served in the Japanese Imperial Army but continually refused promotion, remaining a private throughout the duration of WWII as a way of protest. In this first installment of what is probably Kobayashi’s most outstanding achievement as a filmmaker, Tatsuya Nakadai portrays a newlywed pacifist who is sent with his wife (Michiyo Aratama) to Manchuria to put into practice his theories for improving conditions at labor camps. But optimistic Nakadai is slowly undermined not just by his civilian superiors’ complacency but also the brutal inhumanity of the military police overseers. The opening salvo of one of the great cinematic sagas of the 20th century, a classic that stands alongside Rossellini’s OPEN CITY, Kurosawa’s IKIRU and Kazan’s ON THE WATERFRONT as a social document defining personal courage. "A richly rewarding visual and human experience in all its bleakness. … Nakadai’s performance as a man of Christ-like forbearance, who travels to the edge of human endurance in a doomed and lonely struggle against an evil society, is both moving and charismatic.” – Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com.


MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR LAWRENCE
1983, Janus Film, 123 min, UK/New Zealand/Japan, Dir: Nagisa Oshima

In this captivating, skewed World War II drama from Nagisa Oshima, David Bowie regally embodies Celliers, a British officer interned by the Japanese as a POW. Rock star Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also composed this film’s hypnotic score) plays the camp commander, obsessed with the mysterious blond major, while Tom Conti is the British lieutenant colonel Lawrence, who tries to bridge the emotional and language divides between captor and prisoner. Also featuring actor-director Takeshi Kitano in his first dramatic role, MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE is a multilayered, brutal, at times erotic tale of culture clash, and one of Oshima’s greatest successes.


Syndicate content