Tonight Kirk and I went to see a movie by Kaneto Shindo at the BAM Rose Cinema: Naked Island. Very few people know of him. If you talk about Japanese filmmakers, people will talk to you most likely about Kurosawa, sometimes even about Ozu, but never about Shindo. As a matter of facts, when you see the Wikipedia pages for these three, the two former are much more elaborate than the latter. I discovered Shindo in my early teens, when I was watching old movies late on Friday and Sunday nights on French television. My mom never protested, not even on Sunday Nights - she knew that I needed this. It was part of me growing up artistically and personality wise.
I watched a lot of TV, but I watched it to learn, to absorb as much art as possible. Any ways, I discovered Shindo with Onibaba, which is a sexual and violent tale fo two women who kill to survive… I won’t tell you more than it involved magic, and swords and nudity and it’s awesome and it was released in 1964 in Japan.
From the day I discovered Shindo, I felt that he was”mine.” He was MY Japanese director of choice.
Tonight, Benicio Del Toro said the EXACT SAME THING at the BAM. He discovered Shindo with Onibaba, and then moved on to some of Shindo’s other movies. Naked Island is VERY DIFFERENT from Onibaba; yet, some of the themes are universal: Survival, Pain, Poverty, Resilience… What I feel when I watch a Shindo is really hard to express. On the big screen, these feelings are exacerbated. I always wanted to keep those to myself, yet sharing them is rewarding and satisfactory, especially with someone as enamored with Japan as I am (Kirk is maybe even more than me). Naked Island turned me inside out, upside down - I was literally bawling in the theather but had to keep it quiet and under wrap (there was a talk with Benicio Del Toro and Mr. Shindo’s sun after the movie). I don’t know how I kept it in but now it needs to pour out - it’s a mix of sadness, and hope, and helplessness in the face of life’s adversities, and acceptance and courage to fight and move forward… very mixed and powerful feelings.
If you are looking for me next week, I’ll be at the BAM to watch some of his other movies on the big screen (Children of Hiroshima, Onibaba, and his final work at the age of 99 Postcard). I’ll also be an emotional mess. Go see Shindo-son’s movies or you will be missing out on something amazing, and on a powerful and overpowering emotional experience.