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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 19 October 2013
Superficially, this is a detailed documentary charting the annual and perpetual toil of a Japanese couple and their two young boys on an island, as they strive to exist - it is little more than that - cultivating a rocky hillside, with no access to fresh water other than by making repeated journeys by boat to carry it in by the bucket-load from the near-bye mainland to irrigate their meagre crops.These tortuous journeys, and climbs made by each carefully balancing two buckets brimming with the precious liquid on a pole across their shoulders, form the main focus of a substantial proportion of the film, and certainly the film's most abiding image.
Yet this is no documentary: the family members are all actors, and the carefully, and often beautifully, composed shots and sequences in this handsome letterboxed black and white film reveal that there is little here that is not carefully considered and worked upon. The dramatic use of natural sounds and music, and the careful observation of significant and sometimes dramatic details also reveal this, as does the often careful placing of actors and camera to produce patterning and symmetry within the frame. Yet, despite twice here referring to the dramatic, the film as a whole is not conventionally so. With the exception of one tragedy, and its immediate aftermath, which it would be unfair to reveal, the film carries little plot or story, only observation of the daily, and annual, routine. It is even essentially without dialogue, as seem to be the islanders' lives: even at moments of extreme stress, and there are several, not a word is uttered.
It may be a great film - I am not sure - but if it is, it has nothing to do with story or characterisation, but rather with what it suggests and implies -- about the human condition, about relationships between the sexes, about the effects of extreme poverty and isolation even close beside civilisation and relative plenty, about the ageless nature of human suffering and endurance, perhaps even, in a post- nuclear Japan, about the effects on people of being reduced to a subsistence level where all that matters is survival, and there in no space for any form of interaction or activity which is not focused on that. Despite its seeming objectivity, the final effect of the film is almost mythic and symbolic (others have been reminded of the Greek myth of Sisyphus) and certainly intensely moving.
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on 10 June 2017
not damaged
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on 19 July 2013
This is a truly and unique film for those who,at times,wished they had lived in another lifetime.This film gives a viewer the chance to embrace that while belonging consciously within the context of the film.This corresponding takes the chance to actually become a part of the story as it evolves.You simply must watch the film to catch all the subtleties of living on an island,at that time,not yet devalued by he scurge known as capitalism way to escape modern day live for close to two hours.Thumbs way up! A sublte,yet infintely rewarding cinematatic journey.Peace 8)
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on 19 May 2006
Masters of Cinema and Eureka deserve special kudos for this release -- the film looks absolutely wonderful. The lush black and white photography is reporduced gloriously, as is the beautiful soundtrack. The introduction by Alex Cox and the full-length commentary by director Shindo and composer Hayashi are well-done and will deepen the viewers' appreciation and understanding of this masterpiece.

The lack of dialogue and other social-realist stylistic aspects of this film will make it not everyone's cup of tea -- it's certainly not going to hold the attention of action-film buffs -- but the director and cinematographer have done a masterful job in conveying in depth all of the aspects of the lives of the characters. Repeated images echo the rhythms of life, the dogged march of time, the cycles of the seasons and years. All ranges of emotion are portrayed -- joy, sorrow, determination in the face of terrible odds, pain, hard work, rewards, devotion. Alex Cox mentions Bresson in his introduction -- and I can certainly see the parallels with his work.

This film is an essential addition to my library -- I recommend it highly, and I'm grateful to those who have made it available.
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on 6 December 2015
This might very well be Shindos Best work. At least It's Among his very best, better than Onibaba.
It's a naked picture in the sence that every bit of nonsence is cut off. What you get is pure cinema in a form that not many directors mastered so late even if it is not a silent picture.
Impressive to the audience that enjoys the cinematic aspects, touching to most it's a work of art that never laves your memory.
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on 19 February 2015
This is a very interesting insight into japanese way of life back in the 50's. Not much dialog but that makes it different.
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on 14 February 2006
Anyone who enjoys the primal erotic horror of “Onibaba” (& who doesn’t?) might be tempted by this earlier Shindo film. But beware. “The Naked Island” is totally different. It’s a social realist movie documenting a poor farming family as they eek out an existence on a tiny southern Japanese island, occasionally venturing onto mainland coastal villages & towns to sell their wares. There’s almost no dialogue, just lush music, but the film is very beautifully shot & skilfully put together, gradually drawing the viewer in and, when tragedy strikes the family, the effect is undeniably very moving.
This type of humanist cine-poem was in vogue internationally in the late 50s/early 60s & “The Naked Island” won lots of film festival awards, but such movies can seem quite dated – this mix of realism with lyricism & pathos is certainly open to criticism.
However, Japanophiles will find the scenes of now vanished village life fascinating & fans of Japanese cinema will find the movie historically interesting.
Eureka’s “Masters of Cinema” series has done a great job with this: a restored print, a short but interesting intro from Alex Cox, plus a booklet with essays & reprints of Joan Mellon’s Shindo interview. Last but not least there is also a complete version of the film accompanied by audio commentary (fully subtitled) from the now 90 year old director!
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on 16 February 2017
I already had Onibaba and Kuroneko of the masters of cinema edition, two fine examples of classic japanese horror cinema and Kaneto Shindo's best films. While The Naked Island is quite a different movie, and one with a simple yet touching story, about a couple, and its everyday struggle with the forces of nature, it is a movie that i recommend eventually, and definitely deserves a place in my DVD collection.
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on 16 January 2017
There is little I can add beyond what has already been said by the excellent reviews. As the director himself said in the commentary, they wanted to make a movie completely free from commercial influence and this has been achieved in spades. Like one viewer said, if you prefer action movies it probably isn't for you but this surely is a beautiful, totally unpretentious and thought provoking movie.
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on 19 April 2015
It's grim - but if you are interested in Documentary type Cinema it's worth seeing.
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