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The International Writers Magazine: DVD Review

DVD Review Of Three Resurrected Drunkards
• Dan Schneider
The final film in The Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series 21: Oshima’s Outlaw Sixties is 1968’s 'Three Resurrected Drunkards' (Kaette Kita Yopparai or Sinner In Paradise), and it’s easily the least of the five DVD set.

Oshima

That’s not to say that it’s a bad film; compared to the tripe Hollywood foists it’s actually a sometimes fun and amusing comedy-absurdist drama, however slight.

The film opens on a beach, wherein three mop-topped Japanese youth (from a singing group called The Folk Crusaders: Kazuhiko Kato, as Onoppo, the tallest, aka Beanpole; Osamu Kitayama as Chu-noppo, the middle-sized one; and Norihiko Hashida, as Chibi, the smallest member- a sort of Japanese Davy Jones) frolic like they are out of a television episode of The Monkees, or a Richard Lester/Beatles film like Help! Two oddities stand out, immediately- the first is the speeded up pop song that plays on the soundtrack, ala The Chipmunks-type sound, and the second is the first of a film-long obsession with the famed Vietnam War image of South Vietnamese Lt. Colonel Nguyen Ngoc Loan’s shot to the head execution of a Vietcong guerilla, culled from the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo by Eddie Adams.

As the boys swim at the beach, an arm from beneath the sand snatches two of the three guys’ clothes- only Beanpole is spared. The two thieves are South Korean soldiers who have fled their country to escape serving in the Vietnam War (Kei Sato and Cha Dei-Dang). A series of comic misadventures follow, wherein the boys are forced, by gunpoint, to impersonate the Koreans.

Liner notes state that Oshima was exploring the Korean immigrant in Japan through this and two other films. The film borders on farce because the boys speak Japanese and, even in Korean outfits they’d make unlikely immigrants. They get deported back to South Korea (Beanpole, too, for no apparent reason, save for the claim that ‘He’s just a Beanpole!’) until it is revealed as a dream sequence. Several other occur in the film, including one where the boys are enticed by a beautiful woman, Nechan (Mako Midori), whose husband forces her into prostitution. They are smugglers of South Korean immigrants. We then see a faux man on the street interview segment wherein Japanese people all claim to be Korean.

Then, midway into the 80 minute film, we see what seems to be a complete reboot of the film from the beginning: the beach frolics, the stolen clothes, the misadventures with the Koreans. But, circumstances skew slightly differently. The most obvious change is that the two boys whose clothes are stolen now embrace the claim that they are Korean, much to the consternation of the real Koreans. More sequences occur, which may be real or not, and then the boys end up killing the abusive Korean husband, and the film ends with them on a train, pulling in to a station wherein paintings of the Adams photo are seen over and again, while the two ‘real’ Koreans are executed in similar manners.

The acting in the film is not particularly good, but that actually helps to masque the weak screenplay by Osima, Masao Adachi, Mamoru Sasaki, and Tsutomu Tamura. The film’s soundtrack, by Hikaru Hayashi, is good, but the silly nature of the film does not lend itself for music of any real depth. Yasuhiro Yoshioka’s cinematography is solid, nothing spectacular, as this is a film predicated on one idea that it hammers home constantly.

As with all Eclipse releases, there are no extra features, save for liner notes by film critic Michael Koresky, and only the white font subtitles Criterion usually offers. The film is shown, however, in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the original one released to theaters, and this affords the subtitles a good background to be seen against. The transfer of the film is good.

Three Resurrected Drunkards is the sort of film that sounds more promising than what it actually delivers, and of the five films in the Oshima set - Pleasures Of The Flesh, Violence At Noon, Sing A Song Of Sex, Japanese Summer: Double Suicide, and this - the first three films are the ‘real’ cinema. The latter two films are, more or less, off the cuff improvisations. But all do attempt things that most filmmakers do not, and for that, they, and their creator, are to be commended. But, Three Resurrected Drunkards simply does not offer enough to get any more in return, unless transvestism is granted as a force that can elevate anomic ditherings. Then, perhaps we’re talking masterpiece. Excepting such, this is the sort of film that is just bizarre enough in conception and execution to keep one watching, for its full run time, but never force a rerun in one’s mind, neither in part nor whole.

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© Dan Schneider July 2014

The Quiet Duel
Director:Akira Kurosawa
Dan Schneider
Great artists have a way to make even their lesser works interesting, if not great. Such is the case with the 1949 black and white film, The Quiet Duel


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