4 March 2009

ALONE ACROSS THE PACIFIC (Dir. Kon Ichikawa, 1963, Japan) - From Osaka to Frisco

I think this might be the first Kon Ichikawa film I have seen. To be honest, I am in a similar position to many cineastes in that my perceptions of what constitutes Japanese cinema has tended to be shaped by the films of Akira Kurosawa, Nagisa Oshima and Yasujirō Ozu. Ichikawa’s reputation as a film maker had been overshadowed by the domination of Kurosawa until recently with much of his work now steadily being made available on DVD. Eureka’s ‘Masters of Cinema’ label is doing an impressive job in releasing the films of Kon Ichikawa on DVD in pristine transfers and with some insightful extras. Japanese film maker, Ichikawa’s oeuvre is very eclectic, demonstrating versatility throughout his career in tackling an infinite number of film genres. In this respect, Ichikawa was perhaps less hung up about gaining an auteur status than his fellow contemporaries. Writer and critic, Jessica Winter, intelligently argued profile entry on Ichikawa offers an overview of his work and rejection of the auteur tag that is so readily associated with world cinema film makers:

“I don’t have any unifying theme”, Ichikawa once said, adding that he simply made the films that he liked and the films that his studios assigned him”

The Rough Guide to Film: An A-Z of Directors and their Movies, Jessica Winter, Penguin, 2007, Pg 243

Based on a true story, the film is a road movie by sea?, which focuses on the journey of an uncertain Japanese man who secretly sails from Osaka to San Francisco across the pacific ocean in a tiny little boat. I think what works about this film is that Ichikawa never embellishes or sentimentalises the journey, stripping away all extraneous elements and constructing a narrative that is convincing and compelling. Supported by a wonderful score and a denouement that is uplifting, this has made me take notice of a film maker that I have criminally overlooked for a long time. I hope the rest of his work is as equally pleasurable as this gem of a movie.

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