Children of Hiroshima/The Naked Island
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Posted: Tue Apr 19 2011
Blithely categorized as a godfather of J-horror---when he's discussed at all, that is---Kaneto Shind rarely gets namechecked alongside Golden Age giants like Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi (the latter for whom Shind worked as an associate director). While the influence of his Criterion Collection--coronated classic Onibaba (1964) and the ghosts-gone-wild story Kuroneko (1968) can indeed be seen on the country's scary movies, the prolific filmmaker preferred a real-life sense of the horrific over the fantastic---something that two entries getting weeklong runs in BAM's retro "The Urge for Survival: Kaneto Shind" exemplify in the extreme.
Receiving a belated U.S. premiere cosponsored by superfan Benicio del Toro, Shind's 1952 Children of Hiroshima returns vacationing teacher Nobuko Otowa to her titular hometown (and the director's birthplace), taking viewers on a tour of truly scorched earth. Shind concocts a stylistic mix of odd experimental flourishes, female nudity, Soviet-style close-ups and baldly sentimental melodrama to emphasize the toll this disaster took; its cup may runneth over, yet the stark vibe is impossible to shake.
The one you should drop everything for, however, is 1960's The Naked Island, perhaps the ultimate poetic-ruralism masterpiece not made by someone named Malick. Following two peasants (Otowa and fellow Shind regular Tonoyama) on their daily labors, the filmmaker finds the familiar in a rigorous setup of toil, rinse, repeat---no dialogue is spoken for the first 40 minutes---until tragedy quietly strikes. Graceful goodbyes are said, then life moves on. The characters' urge for survival wins out, even if you're left shattered.
Author: David Fear