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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Night and Fog and Marxism, 18 July 2008
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HJ (London UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Night And Fog In Japan [DVD] (DVD)
Oshima has undoubtedly had a long and remarkable career but I have to confess to not really caring for most of his films. The three I've seen that really impressed were Night & Fog, Shinjuku Thief and Ceremony - so it's great Night & Fog is included in this long overdue batch of early Oshima on DVD from the Yume label.
Night & Fog is not wacky Japanese cult-film fun. It is an intense sombre 1960 film about radical politics with an equally radical & complex cinematic form. It prefigures some of the films Godard would make a few years later.
The film is based on true events & Oshima's own experience as a student activist. After the US occupation ended there was a long struggle throughout the 1950s over whether Japan should ratify its close (subservient) relationship with America with a treaty. This struggle culminated in a (failed) anti-treaty mass demonstration at which a young female militant was killed. Oshima made his film directly after the demonstration.
The main setting is the wedding banquet of 2 young ex-student communists. An unwelcome guest turns up - an ultra-leftist on the run. He accuses everybody present of selling out. Various guests respond. Certain key scenes in the life of the student communist faction are replayed from the different perspectives of the participants (a bit like an extreme version of Kurosawa's Rashomon!).
Although the film is sympathetic to radical Marxism, it is paradoxically also a devastating critique of radicalism. Oshima really captures the group psychology of party politics in which rhetoric & demagoguery are used to gain power & manipulate others; he also captures the way political extremism produces a kind of hysteria in which fanatical belief is bound up with tormented doubt & despair. Oshima shows how this hysteria relates to adolescent sexual tensions. He also shows that after radicalism wanes activists drift away into conservatism or nihilism - or an ever more paranoid extremism. The "hero" here - the militant - is actually the one who, by the end of the 1960s, would slide, in Japan, into terrorism.
Overall, this is committed uncompromising and brilliantly achieved fim-making. Although Night & Fog is about young Japanese Marxists from the 1950s, it's probably relevant to student militants down the ages everywhere, of all political types, left & right (including today's Islamicist youths....)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult theme, great director, 14 Dec 2008
By 
Nikolaos Oikonomidis (Thessaloniki Greece) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Night And Fog In Japan [DVD] (DVD)
Oshima stands for me as one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema, if only for having made Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. His work has a plurality of styles and themes, which do not always fall to my taste, but a lot of his earlier films were unavailable to me up till now, so it was a great pleasure, starting with Night and Fog in Japan, to realise how, from a theme that normally would have little impact on me, a great director can achieve a breathtaking experience. Oshima admits, even from the title, the Alain Renais influence, but the form is one of his own, and that is the mark of any really great director (in fact there are very few of them in the history of cinema), creating a universe of his own through the simple use of the cinematic elements (that is the reason also why I definitely prefer Polanski to Welles). This is what distinguishes the great from the fake, and this movie is an excellent piece of work, showing what the power of cinema can be.
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Night And Fog In Japan [DVD]
Night And Fog In Japan [DVD] by Nagisa Oshima (DVD - 2008)
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