a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Japan’s Tragedy / Nihon no Higeki / 日本の悲劇

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250px-Japan's_Tragedy-p1Japan’s Tragedy, Masahiro Kobayashi’s second collaboration with Japanese cinema kyosei Tatsuya Nakadai, shows them both at the top of their games. Kobayashi is a “serious” director who can sometimes misfire, but when he hits – which is often – he hits big. Japan’s Tragedy opens with Fujio Murai (Tatsuya Nakadai) learning he has lung cancer. He decides to seal himself (he’s a carpenter) into his room, refusing to eat or drink. He spends his last miserable and lonely days reminiscing about his dead wife and arguing with his distraught son, Yoshi (Kazuki Kitamura), who tries vainly to coax him out of his death chamber. The backdrop of 3.11 weighs heavily, as the daughter-in-law and the granddaughter have not been seen since it happened. Serious stuff, that in lesser hands would be a maudlin mess of sentimentality. But here, Kobayashi -with Akemi Omori, Shinobu Terajima and his two male leads – dramatizes the profound family rifts, the misplaced sense of loyalties and the schizophrenic ideas and attitudes that make for a national tragedy that’s much bigger than 3.11 itself.

Originally published in EL Magazine, September 2013.

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