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Archive for May 19th, 2017

by James Horsefall
Allan introduced me to a wide range of classic Japanese directors over the years beyond Ozu, Mizoguchi and Kurosawa, with films such as The Ball at the Anjo House scoring highly in his top 3000 list on this site, and recommendations such as Earth (Uchida), Mr. Thank You (Shimizu), Floating Clouds (Naruse) and the titles by Heinosuke Gosho and Shiro Toyoda mentioned below.  Many remain hard to find, with Criterion’s Eclipse series sadly slowing down it seems, and the BFI’s Naruse titles out of print, although Arrow encouragingly have released The Human Condition trilogy, and more and more titles regularly appear online with fan subtitles.   I have chosen Muddy Water by Tadashi Imai because Allan’s review back in 2014 intrigued me, a film which beat Tokyo Story in the Kinema Junpo poll for 1953, by a director who also came top in 1950 ahead of Rashomon top again in 1956 ahead of The Burmese Harp, and 1st and 2nd no less in 1957.    Donald Richie attributed the director’s popularity with Japanese critics of the time to being less of an individualist and less personal than Ozu, Yoshimura and others, Noel Burch damned him with faint praise as a ‘competent technician and dramatist’, his star has certainly waned with modern film-lovers.  But while his output may have been uneven, films like this show the same humanism and sincerity of the best of Japanese cinema of the period, told with an unsentimental compassion, a strong ensemble cast and impressive cinematography.   Available on You Tube currently under the title of the third of its stories, Troubled Waters 1953, I recommend this to any fan of Mizoguchi.

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