Tuesday, March 12, 2013

BLACK RAIN (Japanese) (1989)

‘I’m interested in the relationship of the lower part of the human body and the lower part of social structure on which the reality of daily Japanese life obstinately supports itself.’  - Shohei Imamura

The pervading moral vacuum, irrationality and superstitions of Japanese social consciousness under all those boasted modernity and technological advancement remained almost a lifetime obsession and exploitation of Imamura’s cinema. However compared to his earlier experimental and path breaking films, this post war drama is more subtle and understated in tone.

Based on novel by Masuji Ibuse, the film explored the aftermath of bombing where a young girl survived with his uncle and aunt. Making their way through the ruins and horror of radiation, they settle in a small village home with a company of senile grandma and other survivors. The uncle trying hard to get his niece find prospective groom but the suspiciousness of radiation turns it into failure. The film slowly and steadily shows us the how the war and the bomb brought indelible deep psychological trauma hard to escape to its people.  A man who runs crazy hearing sound of any passing engine, a concerning uncle- aunt suffering from a radiation and the lively young girl where tragedy strikes unexpectedly.  

The film begins documenting the stark and direct horror of nuclear explosion on Hiroshima. A giant mushroom cloud, shocking burnt and charred dead bodies & black rainfall and radiation sickness affecting the survivors, the camera captures the tragedy without being over the top. Along with sense of devastation post atomic explosion, the film draws our attention to another and quite less explored theme of tragedy. It criticizes and probes the society’s moral stand at the time of post atomic explosion.

Though made in 1989, refined B&W camera work of the film immediately gives it a classic status. The interior framings remind me the cinema of Ozu. Though Imamura started his career assisting the Master, his cinema never reflected it as his cinema remained absolutely opposite from one made by his mentor. However one can regards this film as his homage as it follows elements of somber pace, subdued tone, restrained performances and tear jerking effects of his mentor Ozu. Perhaps, this is not the best of Imamura’s distinctive career but yes, it’s worth a watch as one of the moving post war document of Japanese cinema. 

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