Τετάρτη, 14 Οκτωβρίου 2009

KIRU (1962, KENJI MISUMI)


On paper, this may seem like another in a long line of Daiei starvehicles for their leading box office draw, Raizo Ichikawa. Misumihimself had already directed him in a few of those potboilers (theSATAN'S SWORD trilogy). I dunno if it should be ascribed to thezealousness of a young director eager to break free from theconstraints of studio production-line film-making, if Misumi intended itas a calling card that would help him graduate into the A-list clubthat included Masaki Kobayashi and others, or if, concerns about statusbe damned, it should serve as exhibit A in the case many of us havebeen trying to make about Misumi as a righteous auteur with adirectorial voice all his own separate from the bulk of genrefilmmakers, but Kiru screams stylized masterpiece even from its openingprologue and it's obvious it was pieced together with great care andsuperior craftsmanship.

The slow deliberate pacing and eliptical minimalist storytelling onewould sooner find in an art-house film than a chambara is broken bysudden bursts of violence, these emphasizing not bodycount and arterialsprays but beautiful choreography between camera and characters, withthe killings often as not taking place off screen. In filtering hischambara dynamics through a meditative mood, in giving more weight onthe preparation rather than the fight (with duels edited in a Leonefashion a few years before Leone, tight closeups of eyes and bodies etal), Kiru soars above anything else Daiei was producing at the time tooccupy the same stylized moody genre space others like Jean PierreMelville would arrive years later. The gloomy fatalism and visualgrammar is all Misumi's though and it would continue to show up in hiswork in the coming years, although stunning shots like the circularoverhead shot of Ichikawa opening doors in search of his boss wouldrarely be repeated

Misumi may never get the critical acclaim and Criterions other of hispeers who created in genre filmmaking like Yasuzo Masumura (also in Daiei), Masahiro Shinoda (in Shochiku) and Seijun Suzuki (inNikkatsu) have enjoyed because he never got on board the Japanese NewWave wagon, but Kiru is proof enough that he was one of the masterdirectors of his generation.


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