The Eclipse Viewer Episode 15: Masaki Kobayashi Against the System

EV-15David and I are back with another episode of The Eclipse Viewer, the podcast dedicated to the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series of DVDs.

In this episode, we talk about Eclipse Series 38: Masaki Kobayashi Against the System.

The first film we talk about, The Thick-Walled Room (1956), was actually produced three years before its release. However, it was considered so provocative that the studio held on to it until 1956. With a screenplay by Kobo Abe and based on the real journals of B and C-class Japanese prisoners, The Thick-Walled Room takes us to Sugamo Prison, where Emperor Tojo was executed in 1948. There we follow a handful of prisoner who, though guilty, were forced to commit their crimes by their superiors. Even now, in prison, these men are still being used as pawns.

From prison to sports, I Will Buy You (1956) is the second feature in the set. In this film, a young scout for a professional baseball team competes with other teams to secure the signature of a rising star. Everyone is wheeling and dealing

Black River (1956), the third film in the set, showcases a very young Tatsuya Nakadai in his first starring role as a kind of low-level leader of a criminal gang running amok around a U.S. military base curing the U.S. occupation of Japan. Central to the locale is a slum in which a host of the impoverished live and which may be torn down if those in charge can get the right amount of money. Add to this a love triangle between Nakadai’s brute, an idealistic university student, and the innocent — for a time — girl with the white parasol. Many consider this Kobayashi’s first truly great film.

Lastly, we discuss The Inheritance (1962), the film Kobayashi made right after he finished his ten-hour epic The Human Condition. Scaling things back a bit from that mammoth film about World War II, here Kobayashi shows a group of people double-crossing one another in order to secure a dying wealthy man’s fortune.

Corruption, betrayal, exploitation — all human nature, and all in Kobayashi’s line of sight.

Please find the podcast, the shownotes, and plenty of links over at CriterionCast here.

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In the next episode of The Eclipse Viewer, David and I will be discussing Eclipse Series 30: Sabu!, covering these three films: Elephant Boy (1937), The Drum (1938), and Jungle Book (1942).

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