The Human Bullet (Kihachi Okamoto, 1968)

Eclipse Logo1945.  As a kamikaze in the Japanese military, a young nameless soldier is assigned to man an oil-drum strapped to torpedo, adrift in the ocean with no hope of return.  While he waits for a potential target, he reminisces on his harsh training, on the generosity and humanity of the people he’s met, and on his first and only love.  Inspired by his own military experiences, Okamoto portrays the stupidity of war and the sentiments of youth through a mix of melancholy and absurdist humor.  This conflicted vision of national duty and sacrifice was one of the first productions of the now legendary Art Theatre Guild, Japan’s most significant producer highly influential, low-budget, independent cinema.

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The Kihachi Okamoto Touch

Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions.  Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer.

Eclipse LogoKihachi Okamoto was a pioneer of New Japanese Cinema and a master of genre film, producing outstanding samurai films, gangster movies, and modern war epics, however his best films may have been a collection of comedies produced in the 1960s.  Ever the iconoclast, Okamoto used established genres like salariman comedies, yakuza films, musicals, and spy flicks to satirically examine modern Japan and its wartime legacy.  The four films collected here each bear the mark of Okamoto’s idiosyncratic style, employing elegant camerawork, black humor, and up-tempo, rhythmic montage to embody his humane and compassionately rebellious spirit – simply called the Kihachi Touch.

The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman  (Eburi manshi no yûga-na seikatsu)

A lowly ad agency writer drunkenly promises two magazine editors he will create for them an impressive story and finds unexpected acclaim when he creates an autobiographical novella admitting his personal struggles and financial insecurities in post-war Japan.

Oh, My Bomb!  (Aa bakudan)

A slapstick, musical comedy, Oh, My Bomb! follows an elderly yakuza boss, recently released from prison, and his plan to assassinate a gangster-turned-political candidate using an explosive fountain pen.

Age of Assassins aka Epoch of Murder and Madness  (Satsujin kyo jidai)

Okamoto’s wildly hilarious spy spoof follows the efforts of a nebbish university professor, together with a confused car thief and a plucky female reporter, against an ex-Nazi mad scientist and his cadre of murderous patients.

The Human Bullet (Nikudan)

A conflicted kamikaze at the tail-end of World War II, floating in an oil drum and adrift in the Pacific Ocean to man a single torpedo, reflects on his efforts to enjoy his last days in this disorienting and savage anti-war satire.

With notes on the films by Japanese-cinema historian Chris D.

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