Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Thoughts on Hiroshima (1953) which played at the Japan Society Friday night

A teacher and her charges float away in the aftermath
Donald Trump needs to see HIROSHIMA since it might cure him of his mad desire to nuke the world, Of course he'd hate it, making crossly insensitive remarks- but he should still see it.

Roger Ebert called the original GODZILLA a bad film and basically said that the only reason the film is of note is historical perspective. He was of course dead nuts wrong since the film actually is much more than that. Had he seen the film after a screening of HIROSHIMA he would have no doubt liked and understood what Godzilla really is.

Of course if GODZILLA was screened after HIROSHIMA the audience would have had to have been carried out. One can not live in that sort of dark place for too long- especially in these days where the rational no longer control nuclear weapons but mad men intent on seeing whose "hands" are bigger.

Part memory play, part contemporary drama (the film was made less than 8 years after the bombing) HIROSHIMA is truncheon to the head and kick to the knees. It is a film that will make you heartsick and broken. It is unlike any other film you've ever seen on the bombing since it was made by people for whom it ad just happened. It's not a drama but history.

Beginning in a class room where the bombing was being discussed one of the students collapses.It is revealed that she, and a third of the class are survivors. The girl is slowly dying of "the atomic disease", leukemia. The film flashes back to the day before the bombing and we watch as events transpire to the explosion (the flash)  and onward over days, weeks and years. We then pick up the thread of now and the story of a young man who survived but lost is sister in the confusion afterward.

Seeing the film on a big screen was indescribable. What starts off almost as a civics lesson slowly changes. Yes, there is a little bit of goofy hairdos and zombie like walking, but at some point it comes together and the horror of what we are seeing hits us. It all hits home in long takes that don't cut away but simply play on as people die or go insane. It burrows into your brain and soul and crushs your heart.

What must this have been like for those in Japan? What about for survivors? I can't imagine. I know that at the screening I attended the audience got quieter and quieter and less and less fidgety as the film went on. We all were being crushed in the vice like grip of the film,unable to move and only stare at the images on the screen.

I know the print showed at the Japan Society Friday night was a restoration- but I'm curious how well known the film is in Japan. It was billed as a lost classic, but so many tropes we think of involving the bombing comes from this film I have to suspect that the film as some following.

That the film played in the US in 1955 surprises me. I can't really imagine anyone wanting to release it. I can't image how it would have played since the film is critical of the US...

...and its damning in regard to the Japanese Military Authorities who are shown to be out of touch and desiring to fight on even as their cities were ruined.

If you have a brain and a heart this is one of the most devastating films you will ever see- more so if you are aware of the made man in the White House who would like to visit this sort of destruction on North Korea or anyone he deems his enemies.

A must see. One of the great antiwar films of all time.

HIROSHIMA is currently available on Filmstruck let us hope that Criterion puts it out with lots of extras to make people understand how momentous the film is.
The film was introduced by Allison Pytlack, Programme Consultant for Reaching Critical Will (RCW), a member organization of The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), recipients of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize and Introduction with Mitchie Takeuchi, second generation hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor) and member of Hibakusha Stories in NY 

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