Friday, April 22, 2011

Kaneto Shindo at BAM

In a year marked by too many passings it's nice to report that a great filmmaker, Japan's Kaneto Shindo, will turn 99 next Thursday and has a new film out. And it's even better to report that there's a chance to acquaint yourself with the work of this underacknowledged maverick. Beginning tonight the Brooklyn Academy of Music is hosting a retrospective of his work, which will then tour. I know him from his horror films Kuroneko and the especially the great Onibaba--it was the Criterion disc of that jolting 1964 film (which knocked my movie group for a loop in 1999) that got Benicio Del Toro interested in Shindo, and the actor is the patron of this festival.

A couple of weeks ago I spent the morning at BAM watching two of his films, 1952's Children of Hiroshima, a mournful but clear-eyed reminiscence of the atomic bombing (especially poignant in light of the recent tsunami and subsequent events) and 1960's The Naked Island, an unusual survival story focused on a family of four eking out an existence on a barren outcropping in the sea, filmed so observantly it was mistaken for a documentary by The New York Times. Both are thoroughly gripping; Island, a movie without dialogue, has a stall frame that chilled me to the bone. (Shindo's wife, Noboku Otowa, starred in many of his films, unforgettably in Onibaba and this one, pictured, where having to carry large buckets of water up steep, sunbaked hills many times must have tested the union). A most welcome series that, hot on the heels of BAM's "De Palma Suspense" retro, is making trips to Brooklyn a necessity for cinephiles.

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