21 May 2009

Kabei: Our Mother

Directed by: Yôji Yamada
Written by: Yôji Yamada & Emiko Hiramatsu
Full credits from IMDb

Grade: 3.5/4

We need another WWII movie like we need another samurai flick. And yet elderly Japanese director Yôji Yamada has staked his late career hitherto on mining these two genres, both long thought to have been stripped bare of relevance and resonance. Miraculously, he has fashioned something meaningful within these tired frameworks. In 2002, he abandoned decades of series work—including 46 installments of the Tora-san franchise—to focus on crafting standalone films, of which he had directed few since the 1960s. He began with The Twilight Samurai, followed in succession by two more revisionist films about feudal warriors, The Hidden Blade and Love and Honor. All were more interested in aging characters and potent glances than they were in epic battles or choreographed swordfights; they were to their anime contemporaries (cf. Ninja Scroll) what Jarmusch's Dead Man was to Stagecoach.

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