An ugly, gray horrors-of-war movie. The twist here is that instead of simply running through all the reasons why war is hell, this one brings sex into the picture – not just the usual love and desire stuff, but a variety of situations dealing with sexual need during wartime.


Our titular heroine (Nishi) is a nurse in an army hospital in 1939 during Japan’s war with China. She spends some of her time at a base hospital where men with illnesses and minor injuries rest up before they are sent home or back into combat, and the rest of her time at an understaffed camp hospital at the front dealing with a constant flow of critically wounded men, fatalities and amputations. She is raped by a soldier who is sent back into combat to his death as punishment. She sexually services a man who lost both arms and can’t take care of himself anymore (but he commits suicide soon afterwards). Then she ends up at the front in love with a morphine-addicted surgeon, in a platoon where the local “comfort women” are spreading cholera to the troops, but the troops keep visiting them anyway. Mishi manages to get Dr. Okagi off the morphine so he can make love to her, but the place is destroyed in a Chinese raid a few hours later, everyone killed but Nishi. She finds Okagi’s body on the ground. The end!


A pretty interesting movie, definitely not the kind of war film I’ve seen before. Compassionate, but also somewhat hopeless given the surroundings and situations. I liked it, but can’t say I’m itching to watch it again.

Nishi is played by Ayako Wakao, who starred in a bunch of Masumura’s films (Seisaku’s Wife, Manji, A Wife Confesses, A False Student, Afraid To Die) as well as Mizoguchi’s Street of Shame (played the money-lending girl who opens her own shop at the end) and A Geisha, Ozu’s Floating Weeds, and Kon Ichikawa’s An Actor’s Revenge. Dr. Okagi appeared in Suzuki’s Underworld Beauty. And the armless guy starred in Oshima’s Naked Youth.


J. Rosenbaum:
“Roughly contemporary with M*A*S*H (as in Altman’s film, scenes of war-front surgery provide a corollary to Vietnam), it sometimes suggests a less comic treatment of the same theme–how to preserve one’s humanity amid impossible circumstances–but its ethics are considerably more developed.”

J. Sharp for Midnight Eye:

Made for Daiei Studios, Masumura’s stark wartime drama, an adaptation of a novel by Arima Yorichika, is one of the handful of films made in the mid 60s dealing with the personal experiences of those involved in the war, including the same director’s previous Hoodlum Soldier (Heitai Yakuza, 1965) and Seijun Suzuki’s Story of a Prostitute (Shunpuden, 1966). Both Masumura and Suzuki had been active towards the end of the war, and both used their experience to examine the conflicts and interpersonal dramas that arose on the frontline in order to question such concepts as duty and loyalty to their country. To this end both directors approach their subject using strong female protagonists whose role in the war is often forgotten, with Story of a Prostitute focusing on a group of prostitutes sent out to the frontline to service the soldiers, and Red Angel almost making analogous use of the nurses (although Masumura’s film does feature a group of prostitutes and takes pains to point out that the nurses duty is not the same as theirs!) In a world gone mad it is these female characters who provide the only source of stability and comfort, even morality, whilst the shell-shocked, emasculated walking wounded dream of returning home to their families.


Whew, a not-too-good late-70’s-looking thriller with hardly any thrills, this wasn’t nearly as good as I’d hoped it’d be. Funny how in a week I went from watching John Cassavetes masterpiece Faces to watching a movie that ends with John Cassavetes exploding.


Movie opens in “Mid East 1977.” Kirk Douglas (below) loses his psychic son Robin to evildoer Cassavetes who subjects him to experiments we’re barely shown for reasons we are never told (and JC doesn’t seem to sweat it when Robin is killed at the end). Kirk goes deep undercover to rescue his son, enlisting Carrie‘s Amy Irving (who gets killed by a car in a botched escape) and psychic troubled girl Carrie Snodgress to help him infiltrate the secretly Cassavetes-backed psychic rest home run by Charles Durning (the president in Twilight’s Last Gleaming). Kirk finds his son but Robin has turned evil and they both plummet to their deaths from the roof. Carrie is miffed and explodes John Cassavetes again and again from fifty-six different camera angles.


A brief timeline of stories featuring psychic kids and exploding bodies:
Carrie (King, 74)
The Fury (John Farris, 76)
Carrie (De Palma, 76)
The Fury (De Palma, 78)
Firestarter (King, 80)
Scanners (Cronenberg, 81)
Firestarter (Mark Lester, 84)

One of those cool De Palma signature perspective shots:

Cassavetes (you can tell he’s evil by the black-gloved hand in a black arm cast) with Charles Durning:

Robin (Andrew Stevens, vet of 70+ crappy movies) looks like he’s wolfing out, but really he’s hanging off a rooftop from his father’s arm full of psychic rage:

I wonder who was impressed by this? I guess reviewers are calling it “honest” and “human”. Jenkins’ “Slums of Beverly Hills” was authentic and funny, from what I can remember, but much more a typical Sundance indie-flick than a great promise of a new artistic voice. Here’s another autobiographical family portrait, more uncomfortable and sad than funny (but it still had its moments of humor). You want to give her credit for making a film about parents getting old, having to be put in a home, with kids not knowing what to do… but not so much credit that the movie can get away with being as uninteresting as this one ultimately is. Mostly consists of Phil Hoffman and Laura Linney underacting in totally drab settings, and I expect that I’ll have forgotten it by March. Has the bad fortune to come out the same year as “Away From Her”, which dealt more with the issues that I thought Savages would be dealing with… in fact, Savages is more about kids not wanting to deal with an elderly father who they never liked or got along with in the first place. The father’s shuffling from his girlfriend’s house (she dies in the prologue) to a home to a hospital to his death is all done reluctantly and with a minimum of effort. When the old man dies, the dark clouds disperse! Frustrated writer Linney suddenly has offers to publish her plays and Hoffman is bright and alert and everyone’s happy. I dunno, a pretty alright movie and not a waste of two hours, but I won’t go out of my way to watch her follow-up nine years from now.

A pretty well-composed movie, not bad overall. The artistic look, good framing, lavish sets & costumes all put indie-hack fare like “last king of scotland” to shame, so it’s a fine movie to watch, if nothing great is playing. No doubt that this one isn’t “great”… it’s too even, regular, plain… nothing daring, original or transcendent, just a big pretty movie. Director Forman only pops up every 4-7 years to make another biopic (amadeus, larry flynt, andy kaufman). IMDB says he’s working on another one already.

First, to get it out of the way, the bad. It’s one of those movies where you can play “spot the reshoots”, as newly-dubbed lines show up when characters’ backs are turned and they weren’t supposed to be speaking, or during another actor’s reaction shot, then they’ll cut back to the speaker (in long shot, preferably) and his lips don’t match up. It’s not like I’ve read that this was a troubled production that required reshoots… they’re right up there on the screen. That, and our theater smelled like Windex.

Then the good. I told Katy I hadn’t seen Javier Bardem since Before Night Falls (2000) but I forgot his small part in Collateral (and I missed Live Flesh at the Almodovar retrospective). Fun to watch him croak out his lines with that serious look on his face, but even more exciting is Michael Lonsdale (THOMAS from Out 1) as Bardem’s superior. That shouldn’t be so thrilling, since he’s in Munich and Ronin and other stuff, but maybe that should tell me something about “goya’s ghosts”, that the most engrossing moments were when I was imagining scenes from “out 1” instead.

Funny thing about Randy Quaid (played the king). He’s in nothing but the dumbest movies for twenty-five years, then he gets cast in Brokeback and now suddenly he’s “and featuring academy-award nominee randy quaid” in studio prestige pictures. the Oscar nom was from 1974, not from Brokeback. Heh, from Pioneer Press: “Swedish Stellan Skarsgard plays Spanish painter Goya and where a key theme is that the Spanish people hate their new king because he’s from France. Which is weird, because he’s played by Randy Quaid, whose accent evokes not Baroque Spain or France, but Houston, circa today.”

Yeah, uneven accents and just a not very great movie full of tragedy with sad ending, but there’s even more Natalie Portman torture/imprisonment than in “V For Vendetta”, so if that’s your thing, here’s your movie.

Postcolonial Wednesday, part two. Katy loved it because of the important story it tells, but I didn’t like it because it tells the story in the most predictably hollywood manner possible.

When the Hutus (largest group in Rwanda) decide to kill all the Tutsis (rich group that the colonialists put in charge), hotel manager Don Cheadle saves the day! Calls in all his favors from the Belgians and the UN and other Rwandans to protect his family and hotel guests. Goes pretty well for him (with some thrilling close-calls of course)… manages to save 1,000 people from horrible genocide.

Nick Nolte plays the disempowered UN captain who wants to help but can barely protect his own men since he’s not allowed to shoot. Joe Quinn Phoenix is a journalist who’s sent home with all the other non-UN foreigners halfway through the movie.

A really really good story told in straightforward, cliche hollywood movie format. Maybe I’m being too hard on the thing… it’s clearly a must-see movie because of the subject matter, and it’s well acted and well told… but it’s the kind of movie that doesn’t have to be great because it’s a true story about a great man who saved people from death, and how dare you criticize it? I’m just not the target audience for this… with my twin Joe Dante and Jacques Rivette obsessions, this one wasn’t very exciting. It’s probably better than Last King of Scotland, and definitely better than Amazing Grace and Sometimes In April (other rwandan genocide movie katy watched), which are the other new historical hollywood movies watched recently, so I’m feeling pretty good about this one overall. Maybe a 7/10.

Oscar® nominated Don Cheadle:

Oscar® nominated Sophie Okonedo:

Oscar® nominated Joe Quinn Phoenix (left):

Oscar® nominated Nick Nolte:

Sad Rwandan orphans: