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Archive for July 2nd, 2021

Note:  This is the second of many planned unpublished reviews from Allan Fish that will be appearing at this site over the coming months and even years.

by Allan Fish

The Profound Desires of the Gods (Japan 1968 173m) DVD2

Aka. Kamigami no Fukaki Yokubo

Waiting for the rock to fall

d Shohei Imamura w Shohei Imamura, Keiji Hasebe ph Masao Tochizawa ed Mutsuo Tanji m Toshiro Mayuzumi art Takeo Kimura
Rentaro Mikuni (Nekichi Futori), Choichoro Kawarazaki (Kametori Futori), Hideko Okiyama (Toriko Futori), Yoshi Kato (Ryugen Ryu), Kanjuro Arashi (Yamamori Futori), Yasuko Matsui (Uma Futori), Kazuo Mitamura (Futomo Hitaya), Sen Hara (Unari Ryu),
Considering that he spent his career looking at the underbelly of society and characters that crawled insect-like from under rocks, nothing Shohei Imamura presents audiences with should be a shock to the system, and yet The Profound Desires of the Gods was certainly just that. What was surely intended to be his magnum opus sank without trace at the box office, despite being hailed the best film of the year by Kinema Junpo. It was his tenth film and his first in colour, and in some ways could be interpreted as a successor to the documentaries by Schoedsack, Flaherty and Woody Van Dyke back in the 1920s. After its failure, he’d return to documentaries for a decade.

The film takes place on the fictional island of Kugare, off the south coast of Japan (it was shot in the Ryukyu Islands near Okinawa). Here superstition and legend keep the primitive islanders in check. The oldest family, the Futoris, were once deeply respected but were then shunned by the islanders on account of their incestuous habits. The old patriarch Yamamori decided that, as his daughter was rejected by her husband, it was his duty to make love to her. His son Nekichi is a savage who is always breaking the island rules and loves his sister, Uma, a shaman. His daughter, Toriko, is a wild, sex-mad imbecile, a village idiot in search of a wall. His son, Kametori, just wants away from the island to make a new life in Tokyo. He sees an opportunity to escape when an engineer is sent from Tokyo to hasten work on a well to provide water for a dying sugar mill. The engineer becomes a catalyst for change, and eventually immerses himself in the lifestyle so much that he loses sight of what he was originally sent to do. When the sugar mill goes out of business, the community elder brokers the selling of the land to a potential investor wanting to build an airport.

Those familiar with Imamura’s oeuvre will not be surprised to see as many shots of animals as we do – everything from poisonous snakes to lizards to wild water buffalo to sharks patrolling the waters in the hope of catching some human or animal prey that may fall off a boat. The islanders are a primitive people, little more than feudal serfs, working for nothing on big projects, following the orders of the town elders and listening to the songs of a cripple on a portable chair who sings about the old days and the brother and sister gods who ‘created’ the island. There’s a sense not only of time standing still but time disappearing altogether, with the trappings of civilisation melting away like ice on the beach. Kurage’s populace have not just gone back to nature but have their backs against nature. (more…)

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