NYFF: Kanikosen

By robbiefreeling | REVERSEBLOG: the reverse shot blog September 28, 2009 at 1:13AM

From a critical perspective, the reasons why a contemporary film director would adapt a nationally famous piece of proletarian literature from the twenties are less important than how he chooses to bring it to the screen. So while watching Sabu’s new movie of the 1929 novel Kanikosen by Takiji Kobayashi—an autodidact whose impassioned communist writings and beliefs eventually lead to his torture and death at the hands of Imperialist Japan’s Tokko police—my mind was constantly toggling back and forth: were the film’s aesthetics purposely undermining the book’s message or actually trying to buttress it? Such is the minefield of postmodernism—foregrounded technique (in this case in terms of lighting, camera placement, and odd musical cues) can force us to expect critical detachment, and historical excavation can come with a hefty price tag of cultural superiority. It wasn’t until the final third of Sabu’s stylistically bold, narratively scattershot latter-day communist propaganda that I realized it was neither a precocious reimagining of an outmoded fictional genre, nor a purposely grotesque dramatization of political failure, but rather an earnest modern call to arms. Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky's review of Kanikosen.
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From a critical perspective, the reasons why a contemporary film director would adapt a nationally famous piece of proletarian literature from the twenties are less important than how he chooses to bring it to the screen. So while watching Sabu’s new movie of the 1929 novel Kanikosen by Takiji Kobayashi—an autodidact whose impassioned communist writings and beliefs eventually lead to his torture and death at the hands of Imperialist Japan’s Tokko police—my mind was constantly toggling back and forth: were the film’s aesthetics purposely undermining the book’s message or actually trying to buttress it? Such is the minefield of postmodernism—foregrounded technique (in this case in terms of lighting, camera placement, and odd musical cues) can force us to expect critical detachment, and historical excavation can come with a hefty price tag of cultural superiority. It wasn’t until the final third of Sabu’s stylistically bold, narratively scattershot latter-day communist propaganda that I realized it was neither a precocious reimagining of an outmoded fictional genre, nor a purposely grotesque dramatization of political failure, but rather an earnest modern call to arms. Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky's review of Kanikosen.