Directed by Shohei Imamura
Starring: Yoshiko Tanaka, Kazuo Kitamura, Etsuko Ichihara,
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” Mahatma Gandhi
Shohei Imamura is considered one of the creators of the Japanese New Wave movement in cinema. After directing such striking films such as Pigs and Battleships (1961), Insect Woman (1963) and Vengeance is Mine (1979) and many others, Imamura explored the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombings in the 1989 film Black Rain, recently released by Animeigo.
As young Yasuko (Yoshiko Tanaka) returns to Hiroshima, she is caught in “black rain”, which is precipitation that has mixed with radioactive soot. She joins her Uncle Shigematsu (Kazuo Kitamura) and Aunt Shigeko (Etsuko Ichihara) and they try to get to the Buddhist monastery that Shigematsu has been sent to for conducting emergency “last rites” rituals.
Along the way, they pass the most heartbreaking human conditions: men, women and children suffering from the effects of the bombing.
Flash forward five years and we join Yasuko, still with her Aunt and Uncle in Hiroshima. Yasuko sees many of her friends, neighbors and family members experience never-ending radiation sickness. Yasuko wants to continue her life, get married and have a family. Only to learn that matchmakers will not find her a husband because she is a Hiroshima survivor, known to fall fatally ill in an instant. Therefore, she does not make a suitable companion for someone.
What is to become of the young Yasuko and her family as they endure the unimaginable?
Imamura’s film never gets political; rather, he focuses his lens entirely on the emotional and physical conditions that Yasuko and her family bear after the devastation that strikes their homeland.
There are poignant and wrenching scenes that will be seared into your mind after viewing this powerful film. The performances by all are noteworthy, particularly that of Yoshiko Tanaka who captures the hope and determination to survive of the character Yasuko. The audience immediately sympathizes with her and becomes invested in her life and emotions and her journey for happiness once again.
Imamura is a visceral and energetic filmmaker and he brings his edgy style to this emotional film. The world of cinema certainly lost an artist when Imamura passed away in 2006. Through research I learned that Japanese director Takeshi Miike attended Imamura’s film school, assisted Imamura on some of his later films and that he also mentored Miike personally.
Imamura’s influence on cinema is immense and this challenging film is a worthy addition to any film fan’s collection.
Black Rain is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The black and white cinematography by Takashi Kawamata ( Cruel Story of Youth, The Demon, Writhing Tongue) is preserved wonderfully. The film looks highly detailed and crisp overall.
Black Rain is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. The dialogue is crystal clear and easily heard. It is mixed well with the ambient sound and the great score. Animeigo once again does a great job in the subtitle department not only providing translation of the spoken dialogue, but signs and other unfamiliar phrases.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The film is presented in a standard amaray case with understated artwork.
There are some great bonus features to explore on this release. The rare and unused 17 minute color ending to the film is included for you to discover. I will leave it up to you to decide if Imamura made the right decision or not. It is a real treat to get to see this.
New interviews with actress Yoshiko Tanaka and former Imamura student and well known Japanese filmmaker in his own right Takeshi Miike are interviewed and have interesting comments about the film and their relationship with Imamura.
A multimedia gallery with films and posters from the time of the bombings and informative text files round out the selection of bonus features.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 7/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6.5/10
Overall (not an average) 7/10