Archive for March 2014
Nao Kubota’s premier feature, Ieji, has a great premise, a host of great actors and particularly cogent message for post 3.11 Japan, but falls flat in its unisnspired direction and its length. Not that Kubota’s heart isn’t in the right place. The story pits Jiro (Kenichi Matsuyama) and his brother, Soichi (Masaaki Uchino) against the reality of life in the shadows of the Fukushima meltdown. Jiro, young, single, with a troubled past has moved back within the no-man’s zone surrounding the stricken reactor to rebuild and replant. His older brother, Soichi, is still living in cramped temporary housing with his wife (Sakura Ando), daughter and mother (Yuko Tanaka). The conflicts around individual and collective responsibility, family ties and the future of Tohoku are given the perfect opportunity to be played out. Even with his incredibly fine cast, though, Kubota doesn’t give them much room to breathe deeply, though he give them plenty of Ozu-ish time to appear meaningful. Flat and flawed as it is, Ieji is still better than most films dealing with 3.11.
Originally published in EL Magazine, March 2014.
No Man’s Zone, Toshi Fujiwara’s Marker-esque exploration of the effects of 3.11.takes him within the 50 kilometer no man’s zone surrounding the crippled and leaking Fukushima Nuclear plant. He visited the area in spring, shortly after the meltdown and was one of the first to document the affected area. The journey is not merely the usual disaster sightseeing trip, but a serious questioning of how it was and is being mediated, along with a healthy dose of asides and commentary, interviews with a handful of holdouts living with the zone and scenes of destruction countered with things like blooming cherry trees and flowers. For a film about one of the major disasters that ever hit Japan, it’s surprisingly beautiful. What are most powerful of No Man’s Land are the images of nature’s healing and rebirth, even tainted by the invisible poison left by man. The final, somewhat mundane image of a tree takes on a new meaning in Fujiwara’s hands – something akin to hope, leavened with frightful knowledge and the weight of recent history.
Published in EL Magazine, February 2014.