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A lesson in prole polemics from Japanese director Hiroyuki “Sabu” Tanaka (Drive), this adaptation of Takiji Kobayashi’s 1929 novel turns a crab-fishing boat into a Marxist-struggle microcosm: Corporate overlords exploit their workers’ no-future economic status. One charismatic muckraker (Ryuhei Matsuda) suggests that a mass suicide would teach those fat-cat rat bastards a lesson; besides, everyone owns a mansion in heaven. But why shuffle off this mortal coil when you can organize? Quicker than you can say Waiting for Lefty, the collective starts crowing “Strike!” and the resident sadistic enforcer (Hidetoshi Nishijima) decides to drop the hammer. That Tanaka’s pop-psychotronic take gets it cues from a recent manga version is evident by the abundant absurdo-goofy touches: Off-kilter compositions and extra-wide-angle shots are employed ad nauseam, while a sequence involving hanging victims as human pendulums literalizes an adolescent penchant for gallows humor. Even Kobayashi himself might find the flag-waving climax (complete with an actual waving flag!) to be a bit broad; the rest of us may simply view this Upton Sinclair--subtle call to arms as tedious and trying. Sunday, Sept 27 at 11:30am; Monday, Sept 28 at 6pm—David Fear

New York Film Festival 2009

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