Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Sting of Death - OGURI Kohei (1990)

The Sting of Death - I first heard about the director of this film, OGURI Kohei, in my professor's book. In her critical study of Oshima, she compared one of Oguri's films, Muddy River to The Sun's Burial(both about the poor-as-shit residents that can still be found in Osaka). Locating a copy of Muddy River isn't feasible at the moment, but there are inexpensive Hong Kong DVDs of this film, The Sting of Death, which, in the brief criticism on Oguri that is actually available, has been touted as his masterpiece. It is difficult to tell whether or not this is a masterpiece, but like any work of art that makes people pay attention, it takes itself extremely seriously. Like Maboroshi no Hikari the camera is almost completely immobile and generates an uncomfortable intensity during the scenes of the couple's marital downfall. Here, we see the story of a writer's conflict with his wife over his infidelity. For nearly two hours, we have to put up with their psychological battle, and they (and the audience) are driven ever closer to insanity in the process. There just really aren't too many other Japanese films that delve into a subject so deeply. Interspersing the marital duels, there are scenes that are terrifyingly funny, and the framing is also very beautiful, almost providing an escape from the morbid drama. Once again, MATSUZAKA Keiko proves that she was the greatest Japanese actress of that time period. Some may criticize her for overacting, but the power she brings to her performances usually matches the circumstances. For me, she represents the older generation of actors, worldwide, who just put more feeling into their performances than the young people do. In that respect, acting has shifted.

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