Saraba natsu no hikari (1968)

27 04 2009

Simultaneously one of Yoshida’s lightest works and one of his most consciously “arty.” The color palette here is much more visually appealing than the one in the cringe-worthy Escape From Japan and Yoshida trades in his usual trademark transgressive sex-filled drama in for something more romantic and poetic. The result is one of his most watchable films, a brisk 90 minutes, that somehow manages to come off as one of his most pretentious and stilted pieces to date. Ultimately, it works, but this is one of the few cases where Yoshida’s cast does little to help the cause.

It’s quite a shame that such a solid concept is tainted by subpar performances from otherwise excellent actors. The always dependable Mariko Okada does her best here, but can’t overcome the stilted nature of the dialogue. In all honesty, it’s hard for anyone to give a solid performance with lines like “I am a landscape that passes before you.” Seriously? It’s so odd for a film with a very “quiet” tone to it to feature such overly-wordy and pretentious philosophical dialogue. It makes sense, though, when one takes into account that Yoshida is clearly trying to make some sort of Marienbad and Antonioni hybrid.

The montages take their cues from Resnais’ film. Every couple of minutes of so there’s a collection of faraway shots of the two protagonists, moving around like robots. This part perfectly illustrates what I find so troubling about Marienbad. It has a great premise (just as this film does) but it is executed in a way that depends almost entirely on formal qualities. Thankfully, Yoshida doesn’t let his film fall into the similar “profound” trapping. Every other sequence in the film is much more natural, even if the dialogue isn’t. There’s no way anybody ever talks the way the people in this film do, but at least Yoshida isn’t using them as “deep” symbolic chess pieces.

The result is a very uneven film, with a few lovely moments here and there. It is by no means a failure, but it be a stretch to call it an accomplishment. Yoshida can be hit or miss (especially if one takes into account his earlier work) but I think there’s something positive to take from every film of his that I’ve see. Here, it’s the nice cinematography and the poetic structure, which at best reminds me of A Man Asleep.



One response

31 05 2009

Good Yoshida, not great, but good!

You should try his experimental, beautiful trilogy:

Eros Plus Massacre (1969)
Heroic Purgatory (1970)
Coup D’État (1973)

You should be amazed with Eros Plus Massacre. One of the great films of all time.

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