Buta to gunkan (1961)
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Shōhei Imamura's Pigs and Battleships is a piece of social naturalism, but perhaps one with a bit of hope at the end. But don't expect too much of it, seeing as, despite some loopy set pieces you might call comedy, this is essentially a tragedy (and a fairly violent one). The film is set in a port town often crashed by American service men who kind of sustain the economy, one that's also in a stranglehold from low-level, small-town yakuza. Can Kinta and Haruko escape their hardscrabble lives? Do they even have the maturity to go through with it? How far can they be pushed before they break? It's really not your usual gangster movie, closer to the "stupid criminals" genre popularized by Elmore Leonard or the Coen Bros. My only other Imamura film having been Profound Desires of the Gods, I was expecting something much more lyrical and elliptical, but it feels more like a raw portrait of Japan in the era. Some strong photography, but Imamura keeps the maverick shots to a minimum, which probably makes the harrowing sequence of Haruko's "date" with the U.S. service men more shocking. This one's more than a little bleak, and not what I expected of a former Ozu collaborator, but definitely worthy of attention.
The ending got a little overlong and tedious-- but in general this is fantastic. Part social satire, part social realist nightmare, this is Imamura's fifth film and he was already a total master. He keeps surprising me. I dunno how much Scorsese is influenced by Imamura, but I find their early styles quite similar. EDIT: so it turns out I wasn't wrong-- "a Japanese legend director, Imamura Shohei, a two-time Cannnes Palm d'or winner whom Martin Scorsese called 'my master'..."
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In 4 official lists
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This movie ranks #154 in Eureka!'s The Masters of Cinema Series
This movie ranks #519 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #664 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #668 in Doubling the Canon