Army (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
December 31, 2014 by Dennis Amith
“Army” starts to make its transition from the early propagandist war films from Kinoshita to a film which is considered as an anti-war film, and easily leading the director to create his true anti-war film “Morning for the Osone Family” two years later. A fascinating war film from Keisuke Kinoshita and a wonderful addition to the “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II” DVD box set!
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TITLE: Army (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II)
YEAR OF FILM: 1944
DURATION: 87 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural, Japanese with English subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection
RELEASED: December 16, 2014
Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita
Original Story by Ashihei Hino
Screenplay by Tadao Ikeda
Cinematography by Yoshio Taketomi
Chishu Ryu as Tomohiko
Kinuyo Tanaka as Waka
Kazumasa Hoshino as Shintaro
Eijiro Tono as Sakuragi
Ken Uehara as Nishina
Ken Mitsuda as Tomonojo
Haruko Sugimura as Setsu
As World War II escalates, the tight-knit inhabitants of a street in Tokyo must relocate from their homes so the government can use the space. Kinoshita’s sensitive film—beautifully and resourcefully shot—traces the fears and desires of the evacuees.
Before legendary and prolific Japanese filmmaker Keisuke Kinoshita directed the widely acclaimed films “Twenty-Four Eyes”, “Immortal Love”, “The Ballad of Narayama”, to name a few, it took the filmmaker some blood, sweat and tears to become one.
Becoming a fan of cinema at the age of eight and doing all that he could to learn about movies (without university education) and having been drafted into war in 1940, life would change for Kinoshita when he got out of the military and pursued a job at Shochiku. And by 1943, he would get his first big break directing films during World War II. A time when cinema was closely monitored by the government and were to be propagandistic.
While many are enamored by the cinema master who excelled in all genres that he took on, many of Kinoshita’s earlier work has not been seen until now.
“Port of Flowers” (1943), “The Living Magoroku” (1943), “Jubiliation Street” (1944), “Army” (1944) and “Morning for the Osone Family” (1946) will be released by the Criterion Collection as part of its Eclipse Series (#41) DVD set titled “Kinoshita and World War II”.
The fourth film I will be reviewing is “Army” (Rikugun) and unlike the previous films that Kinoshita had directed, he found a way to have the film made without it being halted by sensors.
It’s his most daring film that he had created during wartime and so controversial that an army general accused Kinoshita of treason.
Suffice to say, the film was seen as an antiwar film and after this film was made, Kinoshita would no longer be able to make anymore films during the remainder of the war.
“Army” is a multi-generational film and it begins with showing the tensions between Japan and the western nations.
The film would begin with a younger Tomohiko, a young man who wanted so much of his father’s appreciation, that he learned from his father about being obedient to the emperor, and the nation and become a soldier.
After his father’s death, we learned what happened to Tomohiko (adult version portrayed by Chishu Ryu),who we learn is now married to a woman named Waka (portrayed by Kinuyo Tanaka) but was released by the military because of his weakness to fight in the front lines. Tomohiko ends up trying to run a shop with his wife and his two children.
Trying to survive, both parents hope that their son Shintaro (who is often crying and picked on by other children) will not be weak like his father.
Tomohiko ends up receiving a tip to apply for a management job at the mill owned by Mr. Sakuragi (portrayed by Eijiro Tono), but the pride of both men ends up getting in the way, as both have their own personal views on the war.
But how will the parents react once Shintaro grows older and is ready to fight in the war. Will he be the man that they wanted him to be? And will both parents remain in solidarity over the war?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Army” is presented in black and white (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio). Considering the film is 70-years-old, while some frames of the film had suffered damage overtime, and features white/black specks, they are not the type that hurts your viewing of the film.
The film is presented in Japanese monaural with English subtitles. There is hiss that can be heard throughout the movie.
Eclipse Series releases do not come with special features but included in the insert is a background on Kinoshita and his work on “Army”.
“Army” was a huge departure from the previous three films that focused on the pride of Japanese, but with “Army”, you can see a major change in tone as Kinoshita wanted to work on a film that he can get away with without censorship.
And “Army” was the result and it’s a film that prevented him from making anymore war films.
The fact is that “Army” is almost a lesson of how the mindset of Japanese were instilled by their parental figures from the past. The Japanese of the 1800’s brought up by their respect of samurai culture, pride in their country and obedience for their emperor, it was the way of life and their ideology.
But children being brought up in the 1930’s and having to fight in World War II in the 1940’s, we see how the war has changed both Tomohiko and Waka from their earlier years in their marriage and when they grow older together and putting all their faith in Shintaro.
Tomohiko is a man who is seen as weak. A man that couldn’t fight or defend his country because of the way he was physically, he was sent back home. While Tomohiko tries to carry that pride instilled to him by his father, he sees a lot of himself in his son Shintaro, who is also weak. Often crying, often ridiculed by other children because of his fear, Waka becomes the mother who is more suitable of instilling the ideology that Tomohiko received from his father and is seen as the woman holding the family together.
But when his father’s attitude with Mr. Sakuragi become tense, it puts a damper since Shintaro is great friends with Sakuragi’s son and both want to fight a war not worried about their father’s feud with one another.
But the film literally rides on the shoulders of actress Kinuyo Tanaka. Her facial emotions seemed genuine, as a scolding parent to a concerned mother, she was the emotional synergy that made the film much more appealing but also adds to the feeling of a concerned mother, instead of a mother that would want her son to die for her country, which many of the other adults have resigned themselves to believing.
Die for your country and your emperor. Kinoshita wanted to show audience that people have genuine emotions and that people were concerned about their love one’s safety.
And the final sequence of the film explains how Waka feels about Shintaro and his military service, without the use of words. Tanaka’s performance was fantastic!
Overall, “Army” starts to make its transition from the early propagandist war films from Kinoshita to a film which is considered as an anti-war film, and easily leading the director to create his true anti-war film “Morning for the Osone Family” two years later. A fascinating war film from Keisuke Kinoshita and a wonderful addition to the “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II” DVD box set!
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