Kaigenrei (1973)

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Kaigenrei: Directed by Yoshishige Yoshida. With Rentarô Mikuni, Yasuo Miyake, Akiko Kurano, Tadahiko Sugano. A freestyle biopic of Ikki Kita, the ultranationalist intellectual whose ideas inspired the failed military coup in 1936.

“In 1936, the 10th year of Showa, Japan was torn between the ideas of modernization and conservative forces. With the power of military on the rise, certain extreme right-wing politicians and authors fueled the ultranationalistsu0026#39; ideals, and one of them, Ikki Kita, is particularly notable for influencing the notorious attempt of overthrowing the government in February 1936, which cost him his life as he was later executed. He strongly believed in u0026quot;kaigenreiu0026quot; (martial law), a step toward the inception of a totalitarist regime controlled by the Emperor.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eCoup Du0026#39;Etat, like some other Yoshishige Yoshida films, also sports an annoying alternative title, Martial Law (which is basically the literate translation of the original title, Kaigenrei), and is the third movie in Yoshidau0026#39;s Japanese Radicalism Trilogy, preceded by Eros + Massacre (1969) and Heroic Purgatory (1970). It is structured like an expressionistic biopic of Ikki Kitau0026#39;s final days. The movie doesnu0026#39;t provide any exposition (except maybe for those title cards in Japanese I couldnu0026#39;t read because Iu0026#39;ve seen the film with faulty subtitles which left the text screens untranslated), and doesnu0026#39;t seem to focus much on building an accurate picture of the period itu0026#39;s set in, or detailing the coup itself. Instead it mostly focuses on Kitau0026#39;s psychological motivation, his relationship with his childless wife and adopted son, as well as with a young soldier who ends up betraying him, symbolically demonstrating that Kitau0026#39;s uber-traditionalist world-views donu0026#39;t resonate much with younger generations. By the way, the 1936 incident also inspired famous writer Yukio Mishimau0026#39;s story, later adapted into film – Patriotism. Interestingly enough, Coup Du0026#39;Etat was released the same year as the Chilean coup du0026#39;etat took place – 1973.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eRentaro Mikuni delivers a fantastic performance as Ikki Kita and completely owns every second of his screen time with his dark presence. Heu0026#39;s frequently seen praying to a shrine in his house or masochistically punishing himself for betraying his principles in a while. The movie is very minimalistic in tone (after all, it was produced with the help of Art Theatre Guild and filmed with a small budget), but it surprisingly works very well. Thereu0026#39;s no much, if any, action, and the film is completely dialogue-driven, most of which you wonu0026#39;t understand if youu0026#39;ve seen the same crappily-subtitled version as I did.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe cinematography is, as usual with Yoshida, quite striking. The establishing shots are unconventional, the shots themselves never repeat, even in the mundane conversation scenes, and the characters are always obscured by a foreground object, or placed somewhere on the screenu0026#39;s very boundaries. They are often seen as dark figures with half- lit faces in midst of a huge slice of negative space.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe soundtrack is also very interesting – it goes from orchestral and traditional music to schizophrenic electronic beeps and bloops reminiscent of the soundtrack to CrazyBus on Sega Genesis. The movie also has plenty natural sounds, most prominent of which are crows squawking, therefore serving as an omen to the coupu0026#39;s ultimate failure and Kitau0026#39;s demise. The music, especially at the start, sounds actually pretty creepy, and, together with claustrophobic shots of characters enveloped in darkness, makes you feel like youu0026#39;re in a nightmare.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eCoup Du0026#39;Etat was actually the Japanese submission for the 46th Academy Awards, for the Best Foreign Language Film category, but unfortunately wasnu0026#39;t accepted as a nominee. Yoshida considered the film to be a completion of his work and left filmmaking for the next 13 years (he even lived in Mexico for a bit), returning with A Promise (1986). During his pause, he directed a documentary series about art, called Beauty of Beauty (Bi no Bi), from 1973 to 1978, which is so obscure that it isnu0026#39;t even listed on IMDb. Iu0026#39;d like to see this little series as well.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eCoup Du0026#39;Etat has great atmosphere and performances, but unfortunately the story didnu0026#39;t do much for me. You really need to have a grasp on the political current in u0026#39;30s Japan, or youu0026#39;ll get completely lost, so in a way this is Yoshidau0026#39;s most u0026quot;Japaneseu0026quot; film, as opposed to his anti- melodramas which felt like French New Wave films instead.”

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