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Japanese Noir?


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I advocate a liberal interpretation as to what constitutes film noir. I can, off hand, think of two Japanese films that I think are clearly films noir. One is Kurosawa's *Stray Dog*, made in 1949, clearly the era of classic noir. Another is Takeshi Kitano's *Fireworks*, aka Hana-Bi, made in 1997. I think it is as noir as any film ever made, and an excellent film. Any noir lover who hasn't seen it should check it out, it will be a real treat.


I'm not really looking for a discussion of what constitutes noir, or can a Japanese film be noir, but won't holler if that happens. What I am really looking for is recommendations of other Japanese films that one could consider film noir. So, if only briefly, open your definition of what can be noir far enough to include Japanese films, even modern ones, and give me some suggestions, please!


Why I ask - there is a Japanese film series put on by the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies. Twice a year, they do a series of themed films on Friday evenings, free to the public. They have been doing this for years, and have shown many excellent, and rarely seen films. This fall they will be showing new restorations of Kurosawa films, all 35mm prints, on a fairly big screen. For a future series, I would like to suggest to them the theme of Japanese Noir, and offer some suggested films. I do have a few more ideas, but would like some help!

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I was thinking of those very same Kurosawa films. I think *The Bad Sleep Well* is the most noirish of the two. I haven't seen *Street of Shame* in years. I think two other Mizoguchi films are rather noirish, but I'm not quite sure I would call them film noir. They are *Ugetsu*, and *Sansho the Bailiff*.


Seijun Suzuki - of course! I have seen *Tokyo Drifter* and *Branded to Kill*, and I think they pass as noir. I'm not sure I've seen any of his other films, they are hard to come by, but I'll look for some.


I wonder if you might know the name of a film I saw back in the 80s, probably made in the 60s or 70s. It was very Hitchcockian. The male protagonist works in an office in Tokyo (IIRC.) He is notified that he is the only heir to a country estate. He travels there by train, and seems to be in some danger. At the estate, he isn't sure who is for him, or against him. There is a cave near there, with a huge chamber. It is said to be full of ghosts, and some of the action takes place in it. That's about all I remember, but is seemed noirish to me.


I probably should have posted this thread in the Foreign Films forum, since you are the only one to reply, but you have been helpful. Thanks.

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Yes, definitely *Gate of Hell*, I have that one on DVD. Guess I should just go through my DVD collection, and I'd probably find a few. Lots of Japanese films are noirish, like *Woman in the Dunes*, *Onibaba*, *Kuroneko*, and *Kwaidan*. But, most of them are period pieces, and hard to accept as noir, even for someone like me, who had a wide view of what constitutes noir. I think the 1960 *Jigoku* fits pretty well.

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  • 1 month later...

Love Noir, especially Kurosawa.

There's more conflict and emotional impact in STRAY DOGS

than in any other american made Noir.

It works so friggin' well...because Kurosawa really knows where

to put the camera...and is a genius at film language and visual narrative.

Plus...he works so well with doing the hard work with his writers in the

screenplay stage. Once they have that down...and his film language...he

knows exactly what he wants from his actors...and how to let them give it to him.


So...you get the impact of this story that isn't even English dialogue.

That's true movie making at its highest.


Why so many current Hollywood directors can't even do this these days with

all their money and stars is beyond me.


Write on, right on

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  • 5 months later...

Hey, Valentine, I recorded a bunch of Kurosawa films almost a year ago, when tcm was having that month (March? ) celebrating the great Japanese director. Anyway, one of them was *Stray Dog*, and I finally got around to watching it the other day. Did it ever deliver ! I can't believe how good it was, and also how noirish it was. I loved everything about it - the story, the noirish settings (who knew 1950 Japan was so noir looking?) , of course the acting.


Japanese noir? Oh yeah !

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