The River Fuefuki (1960)

The River Fuefuki
Directed by Keisuki Kinoshita
Written by Keisuki Kinoshita from a novel by Shichiru Fukazawa
1960/Japan
Shochiku Ofuna
First viewing/FilmStruck

You cannot step into the same river twice. Heraclitus

Kinoshita was certainly an uneven director.  I thought this anti-war film was up there with his brilliant The  Ballad of Narayama.

It is a time of chaos and factional warfare among warlords and their samurai.  The hot-headed son of a simple farming family goes off to the war and makes a name for himself by catching an enemy general.  Grandpa congratulates himself for encouraging the boy to go to war.  Dad wasn’t so sure it was a good idea.  Dad, however, is honored by being asked to bury the afterbirth of the Lord’s son.  Grandpa insists on going himself and is killed for defiling the ground with his blood when he injures himself with the shovel.

The war goes on for generations.  Bloodlust hits at random among the offspring.  A non-combatant and his wife (Hideko Takamine) remain farmers as they grow old.  They are unable to prevent sons from going off to the war.  The samurai sons chastise them for ingratitude to the Lord.  It seems more like the Lord has been ungrateful to them.

This movie was shot in black and white and then hand-tinted, much like an old silent movie.  Some of the frames are selectively colored with masks and others are solidly tinted. Some of the war scenes are shown via a montage of stills.  The unusual technique works out surprisingly well.

The story is moving through its sad climax.  Takamine spends most of the film as a very old lady, disappearing into a character completely different than the one she played in When A Woman Ascends the Stairs the same year.  She is one of the great actresses.  Recommended.

 

Trailer – no subtitles but you can see the way Kinoshita melds black and white with color

 

2 thoughts on “The River Fuefuki (1960)

  1. Much like the Mississippi, the Fuefuki. I agree, this is a movie with an epic timescale done just about perfectly about the bit players that history, the ruling class and war thoughtlessly use and discard, a “get this” from me also-
    Ol’ man river
    That ol’ man river
    He don’t say nothing
    But he must know something
    Cause he just keeps rolling
    He keeps rolling along
    Rollin’ along
    He don’t plant tators
    He don’t plant cotton
    Them that plants ’em is soon forgotten
    But ol’ man river
    He keeps rolling along

    • I had no expectations for this one going in as Kinoshita is often a bit sudsy for me. This was pitch perfect.

      For your listening pleasure. I think I prefer this one to Paul Robeson’s.

      Here’s opera singer Samuel Ramey in concert:

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