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From my point of view, the best way to get a glimpse in the Taisho Trilogy is watching the last part of it Yumeji. The last film encapsulates all the achievements of the trilogy. Comparing with Yumeji, Zigeunerweisen is almost impossible to comprehend. The film employs riddles in abundance, and the hints given can unlikely help to solve quite a few of them. In a surrealistic way, Suzuki's tale shows the relations between two former co-workers Nakasago (portrayed by Yoshio Harada) and Aochi (Toshiya Fujita) who developed affairs with the wives of each other (at some point, Nakasago even suggests to exchange the wives). The story is ambiguous and not very coherent as Suzuki doesn't bother himself to show the things in any sort of logical way or order.
In fact, the film is set in several dimensions, and it never becomes clear whether Nakasago has died or not, and whether Koine and Sono (both played by gorgeous Naoko Otani) are the same women or two different. We don't really get a clear idea of why Nakasago killed a woman and if he actually killed her or not. The behaviour of a spooky girl also remains mysterious and unclear. Is she sort of ghost or she has bridged some spiritual connection with the world of death? We never learn it for sure. Moreover, we don't even know where is the reality or dream or fantasy. Suzuki does his best to confuse the viewers with his surrealistic images and bizarre storytelling.
What we know for sure, is that Zigeunerweisen is the title of a vinyl record that Nakasago and Aochi used to listen. It has some gypsy tunes on it. Somehow, the record is used as the spiritual connection between Nakasago who dies and the outer world. Also, there are some references making to think Suzuki paints some ties with the political situation in Japan in the 1930s. The blind kids might symbolize of Japanese right forces getting insane prior to invading Manchuria (though, it is too obvious for Suzuki to be entirely sure that was an original intention). There is also a connection between the fact that Aochi is a German language professor, the relations of Japan and Germany and the title of record taken from German - Zigeunerweisen. And once again, this is just a guess as it never becomes clear what the author implied.
Suzuki uses Aochi as a sort of symbol of his audience: a confused man is trying to follow the story and understands very little from his friend's behaviour. The ending is bizarre just like the whole movie, and we are left with no answers, as well as Aochi. However, giving the answers is not something the film has been made for. This is entirely visual work, and it is drastically important to pay attention to the shot, mise-en-scÃ¨ne, camera work and usage of light. Zigeunerweisen is a visually appealing film, and many shots are just like gorgeous paintings we enjoy. The matter of greatest importance for Suzuki was to fully realize and utilize his potential in elaborating the exquisite ways of artistic impressions. Making Zigeunerweisen, he made up his mind for creating a fresh visual language. He comes up with the material which is confusing, but it goes without a doubt Zigeunerweisen can be hardly compared to anything else. Watching Zigeunerweisen, at some point you realize there is probably no way to twig what is real and what is just irony, mockery, dream or fantasy. Nevertheless, the visual style is so solid and brilliant that it starts seeming the only way to accompany the frantic twists of the plot which remain spooky and incognizable just like the vinyl record or tunnel we see several times in Zigeunerweisen.
Tough to get through, mostly dull as dirt. Suzuki's films are often somewhat nonsensical, but they usually don't seem quite so aimless. And they're never so devoid of fun. Only occasionally did the movie engage my attention, and most of that was at the end. The rare bits of humor (mostly in the form of the blind beggars) were rather weak. I dunno, maybe I just wasn't in the mood for an art film. There were some great images here and there, though, just not enough to save the film.
Not being as versed in Japanese culture as i would like, i think a lot of the finer points and most of the symbolism in this film was lost on me. Definitely surrealist, perhaps even more so than Pistol Opera even....However i did enjoy it....the acting...the ideas, the imagery...thee film moved at a pretty slow pace...which at times seemed to help the trance / dream like state of the narrative, and a other times had me watching the clock a little bit....but i am interested in seeing the second two chapters in this trilogy.
i remember seeing in tokyo this when it came out in the 80s. blew my mind away. have had it on vhs for some time. beautiful imagery of almost unreal world with skillfully edited sequences.
It's almost like Un Chien Andalou stretched into a full-length movie. Any semblance of a coherent narrative is sacrificed in favour of surrealist imagery and pure symbolism. And it works brilliantly.
This is a strange ghost story of sorts, not a horror film at all though.
it's definitely a type of movie you'd want to watch again, well at least I would.
I thought this was gonna be an action yakuka story, but it's more along the lines of something Bergman would have made if he was Japanese. Some really arresting and horrific images, a lot of bizarre behaviour with some comedy to round out the mix...altogether entertaining if a tad incoherent.
Great symbolism. The characters, arguably, are doubles, triples, even quadruples of one another. Aochi the civilized, Nakasago the primal. Wife an anima, husband an animus, and so on. Take notice of the psychodynamics between Aochi and Nakasago--it's the core.
On top of ever-fascinating metaphysical themes such as Doppelganger and Bilocation, Suzuki further layers the film with Japanese folklore. While the film has complexity and absurdism pleasing to the senses and intellect, too bad it didn't leave a lasting impact.
Heavens, am I the first to rate/review this film? Wow. Anyway, this film is actually the first of a trilogy, and I saw it third, in reverse order from the last film. The trilogy deals with Jazz Age Japan, the "Taisho" era of Japan's history, from the middle of WWI to the rise of militarism at the end of the 20's. Each of Suzuki's films is surreal, absurdist, long, and contains sparse, bizarre dialogue, quick cuts, amazing visuals and the theme of marital infidelity (a sort of homage to Fitzgerald as well as numerous Japanese authors of the time) as well as the divided self. Zigeunerweisen is the least interesting of the three, I feel, but it made a huge storm in Japan in 1980 when it was released, netting the Best Picture award at the Japanese equivalent of the Oscars. The film is interesting, but what turned me off was the bizarre and rather dull ending, though in retrospect, there was some brilliance to it. So, worth a watch, to any who may admire surreal Japanese cinema.