Under the Flag of the Rising Sun (Japan, 1972):
(Gunki Hatameku Motoni)

Paths of Glory antiwar indictment conflated with Rashomon inquiry, hence one of Kinji Fukasakuís "respectable" works, although as ragged with lowdown fury as the grim pop of his Yakuza thrillers. Fury not merely towards war, but also betrayal, personal and institutional, of national trauma unhealed by the years, namely WWII -- "A precious sacrifice that was essential," a haunted professor consoles himself, then asks, plaintively, "Is that what we fought for?" (More impotence: the roaring from the nearby airport muffles his teachings.) Just one of the scarred participants weighting in on the fallout of the conflict, trying to help Army widow Sachiko Hidari piece together the facts behind the death of her disgraced husband, sergeant Tetsuro Tamba. Tamba shifts variously from take-charge hero to potato-thief to cannibal to mutinous shit-stirrer in the course of the story, which fluctuates similarly from modern-day bureaucracy to the harsh monochrome of the 1945 New Guinea campaign. Characters can only hope to escape the pains of the past, sticking them in comedy skits and isolating themselves in junkyards, but Hidariís anguished prodding keeps unveiling the horrors swept under the mat -- hollowed-out grunts fighting over a rat to chew on, the galling clumsiness of prisoner decapitation, ass cheeks carved for meat in the jungle, all sketched by Fukasakuís zoom-happy, freeze-framed, handheld outrage. Hidari carries the filmís searching moral torch, though the tragedy lies no less indelibly in Noboru Mitaniís broken-down pig farmer, briefly at peace in the pulverized rubble of post-war Japan before the modernization of the landscape. The appalling moral adjustments of survival ("I ate a man... and the world didnít change"), where ideals of honor turn as inpractical as in gangland warfare, and the Emperorís spurious nods wonít clot a nationís collective internal bleeding. With Sanae Nakahara, and Kanemon Nakamura.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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