One of the most important filmmakers to emerge from Japan's cinematic golden age, Masaki Kobayashi is best remembered today for his 1959 epic The Human Condition, but that is just one of the blistering films he made in a career dedicated to criticizing his country's rigid social and political orders. He first found his voice - rebellious, angry, engaged - in the fifties, following his life-altering experiences as a soldier in World War II; the four films collected here, made in the same period as The Human Condition, reflect Kobayashi's coming into his own as an artist. He fought to get these powerful dramas made at a studio more oriented at the time toward quiet family melodramas; they are unforgettable pictures of a postwar japan troubled by identity crises and moral corruption on scales both intimate and institutional.
COLLECTOR'S SET INCLUDES:
Japan • 1953 • 110 minutes • Black and White • 1.33:1 • Japanese
Even early on in his directing career, Kobayashi didn’t shy away from controversy. Among the first Japanese films to deal directly with the scars of World War II, this drama about a group of rank-and-file Japanese soldiers jailed for crimes against humanity was adapted from the diaries of real prisoners. Because of its potentially inflammatory content, the film was shelved for three years before being released.
Japan • 1956 • 112 minutes • Black and White • 1.33:1 • Japanese
Kobayashi’s pitiless take on Japan’s professional baseball industry is unlike any other sports film ever made. An excoriation of the inhumanity bred by a mercenary, bribery-fueled business, it follows the sharklike maneuvers of a scout dead set on signing a promising athlete to the team the Toyo Flowers.
Japan • 1957 • 110 minutes • Black and White • 1.33:1 • Japanese
Perhaps Kobayashi’s most sordid film, Black River is an exposé of the rampant corruption on and around U.S. military bases following World War II. Kobayashi spirals out from the story of a love triangle that develops between a good-natured student, his innocent girlfriend, and a coldhearted petty criminal (Tatsuya Nakadai, in his first major role) to diagnose a social disease that had Japan slowly succumbing to lawlessness, devolving into gangsterism, violence, and prostitution.
Japan • 1962 • 108 minutes • Black and White • 2.40:1 • Japanese
On his deathbed, a wealthy businessman announces that his fortune is to be split equally among his three illegitimate children, whose whereabouts are unknown to his family and colleagues. A bevy of lawyers and associates then begin machinations to procure the money for themselves, enlisting the aid of impostors and blackmail. Yet all are outwitted by the cunning of the man’s secretary (Keiko Kishi), in this entertaining condemnation of unchecked greed.