The Temple of Wild Geese (1962) aka Gan no tera

676720265230Kawashima excelled in portraying latent psychological tensions and their incursion into relationships. Here, we see two young people, each misused by a tradition-bound society in a different way, each seething inside. Ayako Wakao’s Satoko is a mistress by trade, or fate: when her master, the silkscreen artist of the Kohoan Temple in Kyoto, dies, she is given to the temple’s lascivious head priest Kikuchi. She is drawn to a melancholy young acolyte, Jinen, who has observed the profligacy of his cruel master and Satoko’s utter dependence on the man. Jinen is both fascinated and disturbed by Satoko’s interest in him; he is similarly caught between loathing of Kikuchi and of the dark circumstances of his birth and his own moral weakness. The story unfolds in a dreamlike manner, a flashback inspired by a now-infamous image on a silkscreen in the souvenir shop at the so-called Temple of the Wild Geese.

The Demilitarized Zone (1965) aka Bimujang jidae

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In it the older brother takes care of his sister in the wasteland between Republic of Korea and Democratic Republic of Korea. With child actors and a simple story it doesn’t offer much to modern audiences that doesn’t have a strong relation to the division of the countries themselves. But if you love children and/or are sentimental you might enjoy this. For others it might be too naive, might have too much crying or simply be irrelevant.

Legend of a Duel to the Death (1963) aka Shitô no densetsu

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Two refugee families from Tokyo near the end of WWII settle in a small town in Hokkaido. They are accepted there, but not really trusted by the locals. When the son of the largest landowner in town proposes to one of the young women of the two families, she is warned off of him because of crimes he committed in China. This brings more mistrust onto the two families, and all local vandalisms and thefts start to get blamed on them. Tensions grow higher and higher, and, after tragedy befalls the landowner’s son, the village forms a lynch mob to attack the refugees. This is gripping stuff. One could easily imagine it set in the American West. I’m not sure if this is fact or fiction (obviously the title suggests that no one knows for sure), but it’s a believable story. Kinuya Tanaka co-stars. Most of the other actors you’ll have seen elsewhere, even if you don’t know their names.