Film Discussion Questions Movie Review
Movie 1: The Life of Oharu
1) Throughout The Life of Oharu, Oharu is forced to navigate a world that gives her little choice but to be a concubine. Oharu never truly achieves agency, being thrust from one unwelcome situation to another, from mistress-hood to marriage to prostitution to religious service, never truly achieving real freedom. While she does her best to overcome these obstacles, the oppressive nature of Japanese feudal society never really gives her the chance to succeed. 2) Oharu’s fate as a woman demonstrates how harmful the feudal era of Japan was for women; the only way to ascend socially was to debase yourself as a concubine or prostitute. Her choice to become a beggar instead offers her greater freedom, despite not achieving greater social status. Mizoguchi’s choice to tell this story is particularly timely, as the Meiji Restoration was quickly Americanizing Japan, and he wanted to tell stories that reminded the Japanese of their traditional ways.
Movie 2:Godzilla [Gojira] Godzilla is a very clear metaphor for atomic power and the atomic bomb, which was a huge concern and trauma for postwar Japan (which was still reeling from the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). The political message of Godzilla revolves around the dangers of atomic power and the horrific, apocalyptic nature of this kind of destruction, as the continued use of atomic power is revealed to bring about unstoppable destruction in the form of Godzilla. The film became a huge success in the United States because, while it worked as a nuclear metaphor, the filmmaking and outstanding creature effects also allowed for a visceral crossover appeal in Western audiences. This success also happened because of a dramatic re-edit called Godzilla, King of the Monsters! which added scenes of Raymond Burr to give American audiences a viewpoint character. Movie 3: Biruma no tategoto [The Burmese Harp] (1956) Question: The narrator of the film is Mizushima, and his movement symbolizes the need to promote peace and condemn the horrific nature of war, extending compassion to the dead bodies he sees along the way. The rising towers of the temple symbolize the godliness and ascension of peace, as well as the uplifting nature of enlightenment.Movie 4: Otoko wa tsurai yo [Being A Man Is Tough] (1969) Discussion Questions:1) This film, most importantly, is a comedy as opposed to the dramas and monster movies we have watched so far, taking a much lighter approach to its material.
2) Tora the Drifter is an extremely light-hearted man, gregarious and fun-loving, and decidedly unburdened by drama or heartache like many of the other characters in the other films, making him very much unlike most of the characters we have seen in films. This is probably what makes him so popular, as he is so fun to watch, with an understated sense of physical comedy to him as he interacts with his environments.
3) Yamada’s direction is extremely interesting, with a great use of color and wide shots (like when Tora is sitting on the hill in the beginning), and long still shots of landscapes and people interacting. He also focuses a lot of Tora’s face, being most interested in Tora’s funny expressions and capturing his wacky movements.
4) Takashi Shimura is also in Godzilla as the chief scientist in charge of tracking Godzilla.