Monday, January 29, 2007

Review of Black Rain (1989)

Shohei Imamura’s Black Rain is a mature and thoughtful examination on the aftermath of Hiroshima. The decision to focus primarily on a single village and a single family within the village, gives a personal touch that allows the viewer to respond to the event deeper way than just shock or comprehension of the statistical loss involved. However, the real stroke of brilliance is in setting the film five years after the explosion, showing the way that the bomb has far reaching effects on society and individuals that are at least as sorrowful as the initial deaths and perhaps even more so, for the very reason that the suffering and indignities seem to continue interminably.

If the film has a failing, it is that it succeeds too well in making the audience feel the depressing limbo of the characters, unable to escape their plight and trying hard to remain hopeful in the face of ever more inevitable radiation sickness and death. The double-edged sword of adopting an unforced, realistic pace of iterative death is that, as a viewer, I began to get restless and detached. The film so rigidly follows its pattern of tragedy that half an hour before the end we know that the characters are not going to survive (though the last scene is quite eloquent and strikes just the right tone of melancholy). Although paced slowly intentionally, I think it was overly taxing.

Imamura’s directing is wonderful. The choice of black and white lends a note of seriousness and period atmosphere (as if the film were made right after the bomb). The camerawork is adept and full of interesting shots (occasional high angles or distant camera shots with objects in the extreme foreground) but never so playful or self-consciously arty (especially compared to “The Pornographers” for instance) as to diminish the focus on subject matter.

Walrus Rating: 7

1 comment:

Mad Dog said...

Okay, thank GOD it wasn't the Michael Douglas movie. Talking about Hiroshima, you still need to see Barefoot Gen...