Rising Sun [1993]

Of the many fine films by Kinji Fukasaku to be released on DVD throughout 2004-05, Under the Flag of the Rising Sun is arguably the most unforgettable. As Japanese film scholar Tom Mes observes in an accompanying essay, it is also an important milestone in Fukasaku's prolific career, since it departs from the director's popular Yakuza films (most notably the epic Yakuza Papers series) while angrily exploring Fukasaku's dominant theme of post-World War II trauma and its anguished effect on Japanese society. Fukasaku claimed this was the film that crystallized his signature visual style, employing color, black and white, freeze-frames, negative images, documentary photographs, and shocking violence to tell the powerful story of a long-grieving widow in contemporary early 1970s Japan (Sachiko Hidari), still struggling to determine the truth behind her husband's court martial and execution on the New Guinea front during the final days of World War II. As she interviews surviving members of her husband's garrison in an effort to clear his name, a Rashomon-like tapestry of conflicting testimony unfolds to form a harrowing, collage of wartime atrocity, endurance, and survival by any means necessary. The cumulative impact of the widow's quest turns this into one of Fukasaku's most intensely focused dramas, leading to a devastating conclusion that qualifies Under the Flag of the Rising Sun as an unflinching classic, ripe for rediscovery as a searing indictment of war and its long-term emotional aftermath. As she did for The Yakuza Papers, Fukasaku expert and ace translator-subtitler Linda Hoaglund provides an insightful commentary that will greatly enhance anyone's appreciation for this and all of Fukasaku's films. --Jeff Shannon

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