Friday 2 August 2013

Black Sun [1964]

Directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara, the Japanese New Wave film Black Sun was a delectable, breezy, madcap, and yet also quietly affecting, buddy film. And it’s blistering socio-political observations on a ravaged country deeply troubled by its post-War alliance with the US, added layers and shades to it without ever diluting its charm. Mei (Tamio Kawaji) is a young delinquent who makes his living through petty larceny and lives in a dilapidated church. He also happens to be a huge Jazz aficionado – he saves stolen cash to purchase jazz LP’s, posters of jazz maestros adorn his wall and he’s named his dog after Thelonius Monk. His apathetic existence, however, takes a bump when Gil (Chico Roland), an African American GI on the lam and with a bullet lodged in his leg, takes refuge in his crumbling home. The amoral Japanese loner and the paranoid American start on the worst of terms possible – Gil is distrustful of Mae, while Mae, hilariously, almost loses his faith in all “black men” and in turn from Jazz music itself. Their accidental intrusions into each another’s lives are further compounded by their respective languages being mutually unintelligible. However, despite all the hostilities both within and without, they end up forging a memorable friendship, leading the film to a bleak but darkly humorous finale. The glorious B/W cinematography, the wacky political incorrectness, the freewheeling tone, and the gleefully over-the-top turns by the two leads apart, it boasted of a terrific score by legendary Jazz drummer Max Roach and featured vocals by Abbey Lincoln. No wonder the last aspect reminded me of Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows, the sublime score of which was provided by Miles Davis.

Director: Koreyoshi Kurahara
Genre: Drama/Comedy/Buddy Film
Language: Japanese/English
Country: Japanese

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