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Nippon konchûki (1963)
Brecht in Japanese
(Note, the following contains some mild spoilers)
This is the story of a woman born into an impoverished rural family in the early 1900's, starting the day she is born and ending on the day she becomes a grandmother. The title refers to the way an insect's behavior is determined simply by the need for survival, acting by instinct alone and unaffected by concepts such as love or morality. In the same way, this woman goes through life rarely giving a thought to anything other than her own self interest. For example, she eventually drifts into prostitution and betrays her madam in order to take her place, only to be betrayed herself by a girl she mistreated.
Yet we can't really blame her too much. People with the same lack of moral standards surrounded her childhood and her life was beset by tragedies and exploitation by others which seemed to conspire to make it impossible for her to escape the kind of life she led. At the end of the movie her grandchild is about to be born to the same circumstances as she was, thus the cycle perpetuates itself to another generation.
Overall the movie is thought provoking and worthwhile. The sympathetic yet unflattering portrayal of the seamier side of Japanese society reminded me of Threepenny Opera. However, there seemed to be too much going on to fit into a small amount of time. This left a lot of gaps in the story, which made it a bit hard to follow, and left some important characters undefined since they appeared in only a few scenes.
Teenage Sex-Farse with a serious side.
Though this movie was clearly designed to have mass-market teen appeal, it has a serious side that makes it stand out from other movies of the same type. The premise, a teenage boy's first sexual encounter turns out to be with his roommate's mother, is contrived to arouse curiosity among adolescents. Combine this with unsophisticated humor and flaunting of authority and you have the formula for a popular teen romp. But it seems that there is a movie with some sensitivity and drama trapped within this rather restrictive framework. The boy is torn between his friendship with his roommate and his relationship with his friend's mother. The woman is repressed and intimidated by her husband and finds a sense of freedom in this forbidden relationship which she can't seem to let go. The result is a movie that tries to be both a high school date movie of the week and an adult drama, landing somewhat awkwardly somewhere in the middle. It does have some laughs though and some before-they-were-famous appearances that might make it worth while.
Kiss of Death (1947)
Good film noir, but somewhat dated.
Crime drama with Victor Mature as an armed robber who turns state's evidence. He's basically a decent guy who started off on the wrong foot in life, following the gangster's code of silence until his family needs his help and he's forced to cooperate with the D. A. Once he's goes straight and becomes a family man again all seems well until a man he testified against is released. Richard Widmark gives a deliciously evil performance as the criminal who Mature betrays. Good story, but somewhat dated, with all the cops straight shooters who are only trying to help criminals turn over a new leaf. Look for a young Karl Malden in a small role.