Masaki Kobayashi directs Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama and Chikage Awashima in this expansive Japanese drama following a pacifist’s attempts to reform labour conditions at a corrupt mine during wartime.
“I’m boarding this run-down truck, but you’re trying to catch the train of humanism before it’s too late. I won’t stop you. You seem willing to pay the fare, no matter how high.” Considered one of the greatest film trilogies ever made, part one is an epic in its own right, weighing in at a hefty three and a half hours long. Beautiful movie, clearly an influence on Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. A young idealist becomes a corporate pimp and slave master all to avoid the draft. His indignities do not end there. Really spells out the grind of compromise and powerlessness of the individual in the face of a complicit society. The striking black and white photography turns the oppressive mining landscapes into a bleak form of graph paper, trapping the human figures in impossible sums. The arrival of the Chinese prisoners of war feels more like Romero than arthouse. My only hesitancy about this bona-fide classic is that I think the pace could pick up in the drawn out last hour. This is becoming a common complaint for me at the moment. 8 hours plus of Beatles footage that needed a stricter editor will do that for you. That Peter Jackson miniseries Get Back should have been a tight feature. Do I have epic trilogy fatigue? I’m not going to rush into the next two war films here. No binge this time. If they are as good as this, I want to savour them, not be exhausted by the unrelenting grimness. Give me that.
Perfect Double Bill: Schindler’s List (1993)
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