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The Urge for Survival: Kaneto Shindo–A Film Retrospective at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

Written on April 29, 2011

Last night I went to see Kaneto Shindo’s 1960 film, The Naked Island, part of BAM’s retrospective of Shindo’s work and a film which has not yet been released in the US.   I was completely blown away by the raw emotional power of this film, and by its visual beauty.

Here’s what the New York Times says:

“A landmark of Japanese cinema, Shindo’s cinematic tone poem about the life a poor family of farmers on a rocky atoll in Japan’s inland sea was made without a single line of dialogue. “The eloquence with which a movie can be made to convey, without words, the qualities of strength and endurance locked in the lives of human beings is manifest again, with fine simplicity.”

and

“The film’s widescreen views of sea, sky and human faces, set to Hikaru Hayashi’s exquisitely plaintive score, transcend narrow conceptions of social responsibility. Mr. Shindo’s world is sad and inspiring in familiar ways, but what makes it so memorable is that it is also gorgeous and strange.”—A.O. Scott, The New York Times

Here’s a clip from the movie–and for those of you who watch the clip you’ll see the actors wearing traditional hanten and momohiki as they go about their work in rural Japan.

From BAM’s website: “First a screenwriter, then an apprentice to Mizoguchi, Kaneto Shindo has since built one of the most richly diverse portfolios in Japanese film history—from humanistic docu-dramas and expressionistic ghost stories to erotic tales of sex. On the occasion of Shindo’s 99th birthday on April 22nd and the North American premiere of his newest (and self-declared last) film Postcard, longtime fan Benicio Del Toro will present some of the director’s finest work. BAMcinématek is proud to kick off this national tour.”

For those readers in the New York area, you may want to see one of the movies in this series–and for all readers, don’t forget that Japan is still in dire straits and could use a bit of hand.  Here’s a link to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

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