John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
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One of the best war films I have ever seen (I am not joking), Masumura's relentless and disheartening war masterpiece is an unbelievably honest depiction of the moral implications of the desperate decisions taken by doctors, nurses, soldiers and generals under desperate circumstances, while the film also reminds us by intervals about the human condition and dignity that all of them begin to lose as the repercussions of war keep making a terrifying progress.
The protagonist is the nurse Sakura Nishi, who is send to the field hospitals in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) in 1939. Another important character is Dr. Okabe, a committed officer and surgeon who has to perform dozens of amputations and operations every day, almost arbitrarily deciding, with his scarce means, equipment and professionalism experience, who lives and who dies. The whole story revolves around the two characters. The nurse Sakura begins to get emotionally attached not only to her profession, but to the patients as well, whereas Dr. Okabe's decisions begin to get professionally affected by his morphine addiction and personal problems.
Akai tenshi explores war from a perspective that very few films hesitate to: that of medical assistance to the agonizing soldiers. That immediately causes the viewer to reflect in the effects of violence not only in real life - speaking in terms of the futility of war - but also from a cinematic perspective: watching violent sequences in battlefields, which are normally portrayed as action-oriented, have somehow managed to be qualified under terms of "entertainment", whereas the sights that this film shows are horrifying, full of pain, blood, gore, limbs and sicknesses. So Masumura masterfully constructs a duality between perceptions of war and pain, and between perceptions of entertainment and humanism. That is probably the greatest talent of this 1966 powerful testament.
And I say "probably", because when the film fully tackles humanism, it explores certain facets of human life that remind us of our condition with exceptional power: family, fear, patriotism, and unexpectedly, love and sexuality, reaching heights that very few movies do. Nurse Sakura suffers a serious number of transformations, from a woman that was determined to do a job, to a woman that learns how to (but is never cabable of) separating her feelings from her job, to a woman that begins to carry guilt out of the death of 4 people over her soul (whether if it was her fault or not), to a woman that finally reflects on the significance of her survival. The doctor passes from being a morphine addict that saw soldiers not as human beings, but as mere instruments of war that had to be treated for sending them back to the front lines, to a man that rediscovers that which defined him as a man and as a human being: love, which he had lost three years ago when his wife died. All he did now was facing death every day, taking decisions of life and death that should not belong to any single woman or man on Earth.
By the time we arrive to the 10-minute climactic, expertly filmed and invigorating war sequence, we no longer even explore the possibility of perceiving the sequence as entertaining. Rather, we come to the conclusion that all of the emotional devastation and discoveries, and all of the pain portrayed in the previous 85 minutes, were result of the action in the battlefield. So this sequence is scarier than it is pulse-pounding or exciting: it is horror that you wish just stopped for not increasing the number of victims and deceased people. What a bold move.
So I have to arrive to the conclusion that the greatest talent of Akai tenshi is that it makes people reflect on the consequences of war in a very universal way, rather than hiding its truths under biased "patriotic" statements or entertainment stunts. It is honesty and humanism disguised as a war film which chose its historical setting perfectly.
Actually made in 1966 (not '99) this is a powerful, if flawed, anti-war film focussing on Japanese troops in China.
Incredibly brutal, powerful and bizarre film.
Script, power, pace, acting, lighting... everything in this film is perfectly tuned, delivering an exceptionally crafted anti-war message.
brilliantly acted, great camera work, lighting, pacing.... I just have to say - an almost perfect film.
Stomach-turning and probably offensive if misunderstood, but also paradoxically beautiful. Nishi's highly provocative, binary angel/prostitute characterization is never really resolved, and in retrospect this seems the only sensible approach. I mean, no one would argue that the men deserve unconditionally the favors Nishi bestows on them, but no one would likewise argue that total war isn't a distorting and potentially ruinous influence on human psychology. It's this irresolvable push-and-pull between wartime suggestibility and instinctive sympathy that makes Nishi's character, if not easily cognizable, at least understandable with regard to the outside forces felt to be guiding her behavior (I think Masumura, who reputedly considered "exaggeration" an artform, is also looking to distance himself a bit from strict realism with Nishi). Of course, the film's fleeting romantic scenes are transparently futile, and the nihilism of the conclusion is so potent that Nishi really could have been a chaste Nun and probably would still have met the same fate. It's interesting that in this light her decision to choose sex over principled abstinence is almost (stress "almost") vindicated.
An anti-war film whih takes different approach to the war itself. Masumura depicts the nitty-gritty and scary reality in army hospitals during Sino-Japan war.
Ayako Wakao is a revelation as Nurse Sakura Nishi, a young woman in possession of enormous humanity, who ministers to the war wounded in the most intimate of ways and falls deeply in love with Dr. Okabe (Shinsuke Ashida), a disconnected surgeon whose only escape from his blood-soaked work is a nightly armful of morphine.
In one of the most heart-wrenching sequences, Nurse Nishi takes pity on Pvt. Orihara who has lost both of his arms. After pleading with the young nurse to relieve him of his sexual frustration, she takes him to a hotel where he expresses his passion but the evening proves too much for him to handle.
The movie is very brutal - it will be hard to get from your mind the images of piles of amputated limbs and the despair of soldiers who know they are on a virtual suicide mission in a war they don't understand.
I can not praise this shattering achievement highly enough. It is a masterpiece of humanity.
I have nothing bad to say; it's harrowing, tragic, and well-made. Nishi has a complex sexuality and she's not merely a figure of exploitation (once again we've got rape in a Japanese movie, but at least it's not being played for kinky kicks). But it didn't move me in any way. I didn't see much point to it. Ichikawa's anti-war messages are stronger, Mizoguchi's work is more elegant, Suzuki is more subversive. Not a bad film, but not a great one, and certainly not as distinctive as Blind Beast.
If you have no arms and legs, overly sympathetic Japanese nurses will sexually aide you.
Stark, haunting and weird. All of which are good things.