Whoa! It’s been quite a while since we put up a “Trailer Tuesday” post. Let’s fix that by going over some stuff banging around in the MMC! dome!
The next best thing to having an MMC! proposal made real is having a label beat MMC! to the punch. This happened just last week when Criterion announced that Bing Liu’s amazing documentary Minding the Gap (2018) would be joining the Collection. We’ve already declared our admiration for Liu’s brilliant coming of age doc set among the skateboarding community of Rockford, Illinois, putting it among our top 20 films of 2018, and it was set to be our next Criterion proposal once we were done with our favourite films from the 2020 Fantasia Festival. The upcoming Criterion edition has some great special features, not to mention the Collection’s January 2021 slate includes the return of Luis Buñuel’s “Search for Truth” trilogy. That’s a one-three punch of documentary realism and surrealist audacity!
MMC! rounds out this proposed Tai Katô set with another film from the director’s tenure at Shochiku and arguably the best work considered here – Minagoroshi no reika (1968), otherwise known as I, the Executioner or Requiem for a Massacre. Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it; Tony Rayns shouts his admiration for I, the Executioner loudly from the rafters of the Time Out Film Guide.
Up there with Oshima’s Violence at Noon and Imamura’s Vengeance is Mine as one of Japan’s most disturbing anatomies of a serial killer, Kato’s shattering film eschews suspense (it confronts male violence against women head-on from its very first shot) in favour of mystery. What links the murders of five women with the suicide of a 16-year-old delivery boy? Plodding cops (one with a bad case of piles) investigate, and solarised flashbacks eventually provide a denouement, but the near metaphysical ending ensures that the mystery somehow lingers. Kato anchors it in location-shot observation of Tokyo’s quotidian realities, which makes the unorthodox approach to questions of sexual politics all the more bracing.
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents It’s Tough Being a Man: The Complete Tora-san.
For more than twenty-five years, writer-director Yoji Yamada and iconic actor Kiyoshi Atsumi entertained Japanese audiences with the exploits of Torajiro Kuruma, better known as Tora-san, a boorish but kind-hearted street peddler unlucky in love. In each of the forty-eight feature films released between 1969 and 1995, Japan’s loveable loser returned home to Shibamata to upset the lives of his aunt, uncle, and half-sister and ultimately find himself heartbroken over yet another failed infatuation. This gently sentimental comic series, known domestically as It’s Tough Being a Man, was an iconic part of Japanese culture that combined a nostalgic vision of post-war community with an unusually unreserved protagonist and traced the fortunes of a country through four decades. This deluxe set features all forty-eight Tora-san films, presenting many of the beloved classics for North American home-viewing for the first time.
- New digital restorations of all 48 films, with uncompressed monaural and stereo soundtracks on the Blu-rays
- Audio commentary by Japanese film scholar Stuart Galbraith IV for the first Tora-san film, It’s Tough Being a Man
- Atsumi Kiyoshi no Tora-san kinzoku 25 nen, a 1995 documentary on Kiyoshi Atsumi, along with a new interview with director Yoji Yamada and actress Chieko Baisho
- Tora-san’s Japan, an interactive map tracing Tora-san’s travels across Japan throughout the films
- Tora-san’s Shibamata, a guided tour of Shibamata with journalist Jake Adelstein
- Orangina commercials starring Richard Gere as Tora-san, with behind the scenes footage
- PLUS: A book featuring essays by Japanese film scholars Stuart Galbraith IV, Kevin Thomas, Alexander Jacoby, Michael Jeck, Donald Richie, Dave Kehr and a message from director Yoji Yamada