Eclipse Series 28: The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara (Intimidation / The Warped Ones / I Hate But Love / Black Sun / Thirst for Love)
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Over the course of his varied career, Koreyoshi Kurahara made exacting noirs, jazzy juvenile delinquency pictures, and even nature films. His free-form approach to moviemaking was perfectly suited to the spirit of the 1960s; he was one of the biggest hit makers working at the razzle-dazzle, youth-oriented Nikkatsu studio during the radical Japanese New Wave. The five films collected here hail from that era, and encompass breathless teen escapades, cruel crime stories, a Mishima adaptation, and even a Hollywood-inspired romantic comedy.
Five-DVD Box Set Includes:
Intimidation Koreyoshi Kurahara’s ingeniously plotted, pocket-sized noir concerns the intertwining fates of a desperate bank manager, blackmailed for book-cooking, and his resentful but timid underling, passed over for a promotion. Elegantly stripped-down and carefully paced, Intimidation (Aru kyouhaku) is a moody early film from one of the Japanese New Wave’s preeminent stylists.
1960, 67 minutes, Black & White, Monaural, In Japanese with English subtitles, 2.20:1 aspect ratio
The Warped Ones A juvenile delinquent gets out of the pen and immediately embarks on a rampage of misdirected anger, most of it unleashed on an unsuspecting young woman. Shot through with the same kind of bebop bravado that Godard was experimenting with half a world away, the anarchic descent into amoral madness that is The Warped Ones (Kyonetsu no kisetsu) sounded a lost generation’s cry for help and kicked off Japan’s cinematic sixties with a bang.
1960, 75 minutes, Black & White, Monaural, In Japanese with English subtitles, 2.35:1 aspect ratio
I Hate But Love Inspired by Preston Sturges’s Sullivan’s Travels, I Hate But Love (Nikui anchikusho) is a high-octane romantic comedy and road movie that follows a celebrity dissatisfied with his personal and professional life who impulsively leaves Tokyo to deliver a much-needed Jeep to a remote village. When his controlling girlfriend (also his career manager) follows, the two must reconcile while dodging reporters.
1962, 105 minutes, Color, Monaural, In Japanese with English subtitles, 2.35:1 aspect ratio
Black Sun You’ve probably never seen anything quite like this manic, oddball, anti–buddy picture about a young, jazz-obsessed Japanese drifter and a black American GI on the lam in Tokyo. The two outsiders become outlaws, and Kurahara depicts their growing bond as an increasingly absurd culture clash. Black Sun (Kuroi taiyo) features original music by American jazz drummer Max Roach.
1964, 95 minutes, Black & White, Monaural, In Japanese with English subtitles, 2.25:1 aspect ratio
Thirst for Love Kurahara adapted a novel by Yukio Mishima for Thirst for Love (Ai no kawaki), a tense psychological drama about a young woman who is widowed after marrying into a wealthy family, and becomes sexually involved with her father-in-law while harboring a destructive obsession with the family gardener. Kurahara’s atmospheric style is a perfect match for Mishima’s brooding sensuality.
1967, 104 minutes, Black & White, Monaural, In Japanese with English subtitles, 2.45:1 aspect ratio
Top customer reviews
Cinematography is a pleasure to watch and the stories are, well, unusual. These movies are definitely dated, but that adds to their quirkiness without diminishing their impact. Thanks to Criterion for keeping these in print. Only drawbacks are that there are no extras and the paper slipcase housing the individual cases has no bottom, allowing all five films to drop out when taking the set out from a shelf.
Intimidation (1960) - a film about a mid level banker who is constantly abused by his boss (who, incidentally, was his childhood friend). His wife is even having an affair with the boss man. So when the boss becomes the target of an extortion plot, the employee is caught in the middle of a botched burglary of the bank by the boss. A witty story, with some great acting. This film shows a lot of influence by earlier French heist masters such as Dassin (Rififi), among others. The night shots are particularly enjoyable, as is the entire heist sequence. It's a short film coming in at 67 minutes.
The Warped Ones (1960) - this film could almost be mistaken for a Japanese Godard film. But the influence of the French New Wave master is apparent in this gem. A young man is released from prison, and along with this two friends (a male and female companion) he goes on a rampage of violence. Frenetically shot in glorious black and white detail. Some have described this as the first true Japanese New Wave film. I disagree with this being the first (there were many mid to late 1950s Japanese films which could be considered), but it is among the early films considered in that genre. 75 minutes.
I Hate But I Love (1962) - a film based partly on a film based partly on a novel. The film was 1941 American movie Sullivan's Travels written and directed by Preston Sturges based loosely on the self discovery novel Gulliver's Travels. In this fun and quirky film we see a local celebrity become fed up with the spotlight. He leaves on a journey to deliver a Jeep to a remote village. His girlfriend comes along and he ends up finding himself while also attempting reconciliation with his girlfriend. You'll be hooked within 10 minutes of the start of this enjoyable romp (which reminds me a bit of Scandal by Kurosawa). 105 minutes.
Black Sun (1964) - an odd film, but a good one. This is a jazz inspired film about a black GI on the lam. He appeared briefly in several other Japanese films of the era (he also has a small role in 'The Warped Ones'). The film draws the viewer into their unusual budding friendship where love of jazz creates a bond despite their cultural differences. 95 minutes
Thirst for Love (1967) - this is the reason one should really consider this collection. The other films are good in their own way (I think 'The Warped Ones' is the second best of this collection), but this film really takes Kurahara into another level of directorial mastery. Everything in this film, down to the most mundane shots are expertly set and designed. The downward shots while people are eating are great, especially when seen through the chandeliers. Other obstructions bar the viewer from getting too close in various scenes, whether it be a window or a bamboo grove. This film was based on a Yukio Mishima novel (one of my favorite authors). Mishima's style is well brought to life with the amazing and almost stage like cinematic touches. I recognize influence by many great directors including Bergman and Truffaut. A simply amazing film about the descent into madness of one woman and her warped relationships with two men.
As a fan of New Wave film, I highly recommend this to other New Wave fans, especially those who enjoy Japanese classic films. You will probably watch these films more than once. Each person will have their own personal favorites of course, but I think they are all great films in their own regard. Bravo Criterion for putting together a great collection of interesting films by a talented director.
Note: Also, if you enjoy Kurahara, he has one film (his debut - I Am Waiting) in the collection: Eclipse Series 17: Nikkatsu Noir (The Criterion Collection). Along with several other great Japanese Noir / New Wave films.