My favorite things Japan, cinema edition

1. Kurosawa movie: Ran is the most impressive on the big screen, but Ikiru is a profound study of the psychology of bureaucracy.  There are many many others, including the noir masterpieces and the criminally underrated late period, most of all Dreams.

2. Gangster movie: Should I go with Sonatine?  I don’t know them all.

4. Sexual perversion movie: Audition has an incredible piano wire scene.

5. Hobbesian movie: It’s Battle Royale, hands down, and yes I taught the film this year in Law and Literature.  One of the students was shocked we would cover something of this nature.

6. Ozu movie: Tokyo Story is the one that sticks with me.

7. Dance movie: Shall We Dance? remains a gem.

8. Anime: Grave of the Fireflies is a knockout, an anime movie for people who hate anime (and war).  Make sure you use the subtitles, not the dub.  I love all Miyazaki, maybe my favorite is Princess Mononoke, just don’t expect a coherent Pigouvian vision from it.  Other times I think Totoro is his supreme masterpiece.  Pom Poko, from Studio Ghibli, is essential viewing as well.

9. Mizoguchi movie: First prize goes to the stunning Ugetsu.

10. Godzilla movie: There is the original Japanese first movie, the cheesy but delectable Godzilla vs. Mothra, the implicit retelling of WWII in King Kong vs. Godzilla, Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (my personal favorite), one of the MechaGodzilla movies (surprisingly good but don’t ask me which one), and the sadly unheralded Godzilla Final Wars.  I’m not sure any of the others are worth watching.

The bottom line: I’m not sure I’ve ever covered a category with so much quality and depth as this one and I’ve just scratched the surface.  And yes, I like Tampopo too, but not as much as most of these.  Gammera deserves a mention too.


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