- The Human Condition (Masaki Kobayashi)
- The Long Day Closes (Terence Davies)
- Onibaba (Kaneto Shindo)
- Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
- Nothing Sacred (William Wellman)
- The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks)
- In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar Wai)
- Citizen Kane (Orson Welles)
- Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer)
- Humanity and Paper Balloons (Sadao Yamanaka)
1. The Human Condition has been on my radar ever since I was a kid and saw it mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘longest movie’. I think nowadays it would be considered more of a mini-series since it consists of three separate two-part films. When considered in that light the prospect of watching six 90 minute films is less daunting than watching one 540 minute one. Politically, the film is powerful. It is astounding that Japan produced a film that is so self-indicting regarding the abuses of its fascistic military in Manchuria during World War II. There is certainly nothing comparable from Germany after the war or at all!. The Human Condition is certainly ambitious and powerful with amazing set pieces, but the length does give rise to longeurs as well. Watching it I felt like I was watching one of those epic American All-Star movies like The Longest Day. In fact, two of the hugest Japanese actors of the time, Chishu Ryu and Hideko Takamine, appear in cameos late in the film much in the way Red Buttons appeared in The Longest Day. Wonder if there was some influence there. The Longest Day came out after The Human Condition but that sort of thing was very popular at the time – consider Around the World in Eighty Days. I have become an admirer of Kobayashi, especially for Kwaidan and Samurai Rebellion. And Tatsuya Nakadai sure is dreamy.
2. If you haven’t read my Scene Analysis of the penultimate scene of The Long Day Closes, please do. I hope it will inspire you to watch the whole magnificent creation.
3. I had forgotten how hilarious Nothing Sacred is and what an absolute mess The Big Sleep is. I love them both.
4. To paraphrase Enobarbus from Antony and Cleopatra, there are films which cloy the appetites they feed, but In The Mood For Love makes hungry, where most it satisfies’. I want to be watching it, always.
5. Humanity and Paper Balloons is yet another beautiful cinematic experience I owe to reading Donald Richie’s One Hundred Years of Japanese Film. The director Sadao Yamanaka died very young as a soldier in Manchuria, which makes this film and The Human Condition neat bookends to my current list. As others have noted, it is also a nice companion piece to Kurosawa’s The Lower Depths, based on Dostoevsky. We’ll never know what the world lost with Yamanaka dying so young, but if this film is any indication, it lost a lot.