Thursday 19 December 2019

Koreyoshi Kurahara

In the midst of all the composing, I find moments where I can escape by watching films. Change of mind, change of mood, change of spirit = inspiration.

On my journey of exploring older Japanese cinema, I recently ordered a Criterion set of films by Koreyoshi Kuraha, a director I knew nothing about. I just went by instinct, and I was handsomely rewarded. I watched Black Sun 黒い太陽, a wacky, anti-buddy romp of a film between a young jazz-obsessed society miscast (played by the charismatic Tamio Kawaji, another discovery for me...) and a Black GI on the run after an accidental murder.

It was the 60's, Japan was still occupied by the U.S., jazz was all the rage among the youngsters, and there was the Japanese Nouvelle Vague in cinema, which found in Koreyoshi Kurahara 蔵原惟繕, one of his best figures. 

The main actor, Tamio Kawaji, plays his role with joyful abandon, over-the-top child-like wildness. I was just captivated by him. Opposite him is American Chico Lourant, a Black American soldier who found a career as an actor in Japan during the 60's, who, despite his very limited acting range (and I could barely understand anything from his incessant breathy mumbling), still managed to create a convincing character as 'Gill'.

And to top it all, the score played by hyped jazz hero Max Roach (with Abbey Lincoln's singing) adds to the 'assault' to the senses that the film is, both visually and sonically.

"Koreyoshi Kurahara’s Black Sun is a loud, ugly, gritty, and gripping film. It is a tortured shriek of post-war anguish from one of Japan’s leading filmmakers of the 1960s."

I'm so thankful to Criterion for releasing such treasures in perfect quality. The black and white photography by Mitsuji Kanau just looked gorgeous. Next will be The Warped Ones, which apparently precedes Black Sun by four years, with again, Tamio Kawaji as a young society miscast, and also Chico Lourant, this time in a minor role.

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