“If a warrior is not unattached to life and death, he will be of no use whatsoever. The saying that “All abilities come from one mind” sounds as though it has to do with sentient matters, but it is in fact a matter of being unattached to life and death. With such non-attachment one can accomplish any feat.”
“Even if it seems certain that you will lose, retaliate. Neither wisdom nor technique has a place in this. A real man does not think of victory or defeat. He plunges recklessly towards an irrational death. By doing this, you will awaken from your dreams.”
“Bushido is realized in the presence of death. This means choosing death whenever there is a choice between life and death. There is no other reasoning.”
― Tsunetomo Yamamoto, Hagakure.
My Interest on Japanese Cinema
If you read one of my previous post you know about my Love Affair with Cinema (Jan 2017) as a child, and a young man, not that I ever stop of loving movies, but you could say, I have not the time now to waste, as I did as a young man, looking at movies, that unfortunately, sad to say, most of them are a waste of time, mass produced, poor in plot, and most of the time mindless entertainment, despite the great amount of money now day cost producing a movie, save few honorable exceptions of course.
From very early in my life I was impressed with Japanese cinema by the portrayal of fearless, skillful with a sword, and honorable Samurais, willing to give their life away for loyalty, and their high moral sense of duty.
How not to be impressed by these stoic warriors, heroes of the past, at such tender, and idealistic age?
Not to say the movies were superbly crafted, and carried by a vision different from let’s say a bunch of wild, and rogue, cowboys, and bank robbers, in a saloon brawl, exciting as it may be, but stories devoid of idealism, and selflessness, characteristic of Samurai’s Bushido code movies, as we used to call them, how can we forget the Judo Saga 1965 by Seiichiiro Uchikawa, first made by Kurosawa in 1943 the story of Sanchiro Sugata but not available until much later (1974), or Hiroshi Inagaki’s superb Samurai Trilogy 1954-1956, and his Chushingura Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki. 1962. just to mention some of the few most memorable Japanese movies I recollect, as writing this, from the many I saw.
There is many Japanese movies I watched worth writing about it, however for today I will talk about Masaki Kobayashi who impressed my young mind by some great movies he made, and now looking back for his great social vision somehow overlooked in the West, by our lack of sympathy rampant at the time, with a fear of communism, fresh out of Senator McCarthy reign of terror, McCarthyism was a widespread social and cultural phenomenon that affected all levels of society and was the source of a great deal of debate and conflict in the United States, Kobayashi despite the prices, and nominations he won, is work now days lay forgotten, but for a few cognoscenti of this great director.
Masaki Kobayashi (小林 正樹 Kobayashi Masaki?, February 14, 1916 – October 4, 1996) was a Japanese film director, best known for the epic trilogy The Human Condition (1959–1961), the samurai film Seppuku (1962), Ghost Stories (1964). And Samurai rebellion (1967)
An art history student, Kobayashi decided to take up film making when the Pacific war broke out, convinced that cinema was a more urgent medium for a time of crisis. Mere months after securing an apprenticeship at the Shochiku studio, he was conscripted into the Japanese Army in Manchuria, where, as an act of resistance, he refused to rise above the rank of private. He was eventually interned at a prisoner-of-war camp in Okinawa.
Kobayashi’s experiences in that war, which he called “the culmination of human evil,” directly inspired his grueling magnum opus “The Human Condition” (1959-61), a three-part, 9 1/2-hour epic about a principled soldier who decries but becomes implicated in his country’s militarist aggression. Now known principally for “The Human Condition” and such later period films as “Harakiri” (1963), Kobayashi was a clear-eyed social critic from early in his career.
A Rebel, And a Critic
Masaki Kobayashi’s career started during, and through Golden Age of Japanese cinema in the 1950s and 1960s, and all the way to the mid 1980s . Kobayashi has been largely forgotten but for a few cinema lovers around the World, even in Japan interest in his work is much lower than it is for the films of his contemporaries, such as Akira Kurosawa. Despite the fact that some of his films such as the war trilogy Ningen no jōken (The Human Condition, 1959-1961) and Seppuku (Harakiri, 1962) had won international critical acclaim,1 the centenary of his birth in February 2016 passed almost unnoticed in the Western media. The reason for this unpardonable oversight by film goers, and critics alike, it’s easy to understand, some, or I should say many may find his movies, dark, and depressing, others may feel uncomfortable about his political views, and too critical for its day, from a time like the early fifties, specially in Japan, you basically conformed to the establishment of the day, or you were not even be able to work, or even to speak your mind, without risking retribution, and boycott, to Kobayashi’s credit not only he created great cinematography, but condemn Japan Imperial war past, and the uncritical authority from the ruler class of medieval Japan, over their serfs, that didn’t Historically ended, until quite recently, and even today not quite totally extinct in modern Japan, the Daimyo (Lord), now day supplanted by the Company boss.