Movie of the Day : RONIN-GAI (1990) on Roku’s HULU Channel/App!

RONIN-GAI – Made in that period where arguably Samurai films had fallen out of popularity, RONIN_GAI (Ronin District) is a little seen and little known Samurai film, directed by Kazuo Kuroki who began his feature film directing career with the equally little seen 1966 film SILENCE HAS NO WINGS.

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The film, RONIN-GAI, feels very much like a work that could have been made in the heyday of Samurai (Chambara) films, some mad amalgamation of the work of master directors such as Masaki Kobayashi (with its use of beautiful imagery and themes of corruption and injustice, that must be opposed by the one against the many) and Hideo Gosha (with its strong element of sensuality and even perversion, and its zeroing in on the female as a strong, vital force. The crux around which the story revolves).

That said the film is very much its own thing, being at times a morally bankrupt, vile, and hero-less world, a deconstruction of the Samurai myths, peopled with fallen men and women, and twisted power… in conflict. And there is, in its structure, very much of a murder mystery feel initially, that turns into something different, and more dire.

Wonderful and at times inexplicable performances throughout, make this a film that earns its place among the best that Chambara cinema has produced.

And a fitting swan song for the Chambara films, that would disappear for nearly a decade, until revived by two Takeshi Kitano supported efforts, TABOO(1999) and ZATOICHI(2003) as well as WHEN THE LAST SWORD IS DRAWN(2002) by Yôjirô Takita and Yoji Yamada’s TWILIGHT SAMURAI(2002).

Grade: A must own film. See it for free on HULU for a few months longer, but then buy it in the highest quality DVD or Bluray you can find. It deserves that… permanence.

 

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Fanfare for a Death Scene (1964) and best Cinematographers!!

Today’s recommended movie FANFARE FOR A DEATH SCENE (1964)

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This is a forgotten little 1964 made for TV movie, that sports the phenomenal camera work of the great Conrad L. Hall. The opening sequence alone is reason enough to view this film.

You can view the film courtesy of Amazon Prime.

Click here for Fanfare For A Death Scene

When it comes to the great camera men of cinema, Conrad Hall, in terms of bravura visual styling and seminal impact, is right up there with the best of cinematographers.

The best of them being Karl Freund (the father of cinematography in many ways, creating much of the visual techniques and language of cinema in ground breaking films such as METROPOLIS and DRACULA) Karl Struss (SUNSHINE) and Freddie Young (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA), James Wong Howe (SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS), Vilmos Zsigmond (two great collaborations with Robert Altman, IMAGES and THE LONG GOODBYE), Geoffrey Unsworth (2001, SUPER MAN), Bradford Young (MOTHER OF GEORGE, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, PAWN SACRIFICE, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, SELMA), Guy Green (GREAT EXPECTATIONS), Lisa RInzler (MENACE II SOCIETY), Sergey Urusevskiy (I AM CUBA), John Alton (his wonderful collaborations with Anthony Mann, such as T-MEN, RAW DEAL), and Yoshio Miyajima (particularly with his collaborations with Masaki Kobayashi in films such as HARA KIRI and KWAIDAN).

For more on FANFARE FOR A DEATH SCENE there is a wonderful article on the production by Stephen Bowie here!

Come back next time for more VOD picks and reviews!