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Emperor's Naked Army Marches on
Emperor's Naked Army Marches on
Director: Kazuo Hara
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
UR     2007     2hr 2min

Man on a mission? Or, man obsessed? Director Kazua Hara?s absorbing documentary follows former auto mechanic Kenzo Okuzaki?a veteran of Japan?s New Guinea campaign during WWII?as he searches out those responsible for the m...  more »


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Movie Details

Director: Kazuo Hara
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Studio: Facets
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 02/27/2007
Original Release Date: 05/15/1988
Theatrical Release Date: 05/15/1988
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 2hr 2min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

An amazing film that is a precusor to today's documentaries
Rokodera | Chicago, IL | 07/29/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"A quote from Michael Moore appears on the cover of the DVD case of "The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On" that says, "The most amazing piece of filmmaking!" One can't be sure exactly what Moore meant by that, but the film certainly qualifies as Michael Moore-esque--and it is quite amazing in its own way. Its documentary form, its in-your-face attitude, and its gotcha "journalism" are all echoed in Moore's work. A reasonable person could see the similar methods of each and surmise that this film was Moore's original inspiration for Fahrenheit 911.

The basic story line is of a Japanese soldier in New Guinea who witnesses an atrocity just days after WWII ended, then, years later, launches a crusade to find and confront the alleged perpetrators of the atrocity. The soldier, Kenzo Okuzaki, now well into middle age, is sometimes accompanied by a couple of family members of the victims as they seek the truth about what happened. An unseen camera crew, directed by filmmaker Kazuo Hara, records the action.

One marvels at Okuzaki's temerity as he enters a small Japanese village and nearly muscles his way into the homes of the alleged guilty parties using an odd blend of extreme politeness, guile, and physical threats. This is most un-Japanese. The startled victims, when confronted, do, however, react in a more characteristic Japanese way by disguising their surprise and alarm with polite smiles and bows as they invite the interloper part way into their homes or businesses.

The ensuing accusatory harangue by Okuzaki and the polite denials by his targets can last only so long before he loses patience and advances toward physical threats and actual violence. Meanwhile, the viewer is left in an uncomfortable spot, having to watch helplessly as the victim realizes the imminent danger. One is left open-mouthed when the police finally arrive and are cowed into docility by the apparently mad Okuzaki.

It's interesting to note that even the Hara, the filmmaker confesses to a dislike of his subject. "In the film, he (Okuzaki) sounds logical only because of skillful editing." he says. In fact, Okuzaki considered himself the director, not Hara.

All this said, however, it will be a rare viewer who won't be transfixed by this film. The interest level rarely flags as we are led, step by step to the end. No matter your view of Okuzaki, "The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On" will keep you riveted to your chair. Afterward, you'll be left to ponder what inspiration it must have given to our current crop of filmmakers.
The Nail That Refused To Be Hammered Down!
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 04/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"My review of "The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On" refers to the Region 4 import from Australia. I had this film on VHS; and although the DVD from Australia was an improvement over the horrible transfer and subtitles of the VHS film, the film could still be improved upon. Hopefully this newer release [all region] has better quality subtitles. This documentary film released in 1988, and 4 to 5 years in the making, deals with the quest, or crusade, of a one Kenzo Okuzaki. Say what you will about Kenzo Okuzaki; the former Imperial Japanese soldier; one thing is for sure: his confrontational style leaves the viewer with a unique look at atonement.

The Japanese have a saying "The nail that sticks up shall be hammered down." Yet, Kenzo Okuzaki not only refused to be hammered down, but his very character traits of being in the face of those he accuses of war crimes gives the viewer a strange and perplexing look at a nation who refuses to look at its own past. Yes, WWII was a long time ago. But for many, including Okuzaki, time is irrelevant. The entire premise of the documentary deals with Okuzaki's attempts to confront the horror of his wartime experiences of the New Guinea campaign in WWII. For those who are not familiar with the WWII campaign on New Guinea, the battle was a hellish one. Especially for the Japanese.

Kenzo Okuzaki accuses his former superiors of atrocities in this documentary. Especially one atrocity in particular: The execution of Japanese soldiers on New Guinea. Okuzaki, who is sometimnes accompanized along with the deceased soldiers' relatives, attempts to expose these atrocities by confronting former members of his unit. One in particular is a former Sergeant. And although the film explores the atrocities by the Japanese soldiers against Japanese soldiers, the very fact that these former soldiers pass the buck to those who were in charge; and in particular to their commanding officer; whose response was that he was "only following orders," is very telling in itself.

But for me, the main essence of the documentary of a former soldier in the Japanese Imperial Army accusing his own men of atrocities is quite compelling. Especially considering that Okuzaki accuses Emperor Hirohito of being responsible for ALL the war crimes committed in WWII: As Okuzaki believes the Emperor was the reason that the Japanese Army went on a conquest of Asia. I would also like to recommend to those who wish to purchase this DVD, to also take a look at the film "Under The Flag Of The Rising Sun" by director Kinji Fukasaku. The film by Fukasaku, released in 1972, deals with the New Guinea campaign, and the accusations directed by the the films protagonist compliment "The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On." I would also recommend to viewers to check out the film "Fires On The Plain, by director Kon Ichikawa. The subject matter that both of these films deal with have much in common with the documentary. Especially why the accused in this documentary were executed.

This documentary is one of only a handful of documentaries by Japanese soldiers confronting the war, and as such it is highly recommended. Do not go into this documentary with the assumption that this will be like something you see on the History Channel, or some other well-done, cinematic and perfectly directed documentary. This documentry may not have perfect camera men behind the lens, but it says much more than many other documentaries of this nature. Which is probably why I like this documentary so much. Whether or not it is professionally done does not really matter. What matters is the lone crusade of one former Japanese soldier who does not wish to quietly acquiesce to those whom he once served under. And whether or not you sympathize with Okuzaki is really irrelevant, [to me at least] for he is not trying to be liked. His in your face attitude and disrespect for those in authority is his way of attempting to come to face-to-face with his own harrowing past. Maybe even his way of redemption? I highly recommend the DVD."
Onward, Soldiers of the Rising Sun
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 03/22/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"After being fired from Shochiku Ofuna studios for his film Night and Fog in Japan, Oshima Nagisa immersed himself in the world of documentary film making for the big screen and television. While this at first might seem as a demotion in comparison to the work he was doing before, in fact, documentary film making allowed Oshima to film on a number of subjects, The Vietnam War, Forgotten war veterans of Korean roots who had fought for Japan, the state of modern South Korea, racism, poverty, etc., that if not outright banned were frowned upon by more conservative film production studios who viewed profit instead of content as the main purpose of film. Oshima would eventually go back to making "mainstream" films, but other directors such as Ogawa Shinsuke and Tsuchimoto Noriaki concerned themselves with making films concerning Japanese people who were harmed or left behind by Japan's rapid growth during the 1960s.

Amongst these significant documentary directors is Hara Kazuo. A former photography student who made his debut in 1972 with his film Sayonara CP which displayed in vivid detail the suffering of individuals afflicted with cerebral palsy and how they were treated and ignored by the Japanese populace. In 1974, Hara would film Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974, an autobiographical film concerning his ex-girlfriend who fled to Okinawa and prostituted herself to black soldiers after leaving Hara. The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On began filming nearly a decade later and it took Hara some five years to edit and release the completed film.

The Emperor's Naked Army (Naked Army for the duration of this review) concerns the life of war veteran Okuzaki Kenzo, a confrontational man who had served the Japanese Imperial Army in New Guinea and who had also served 13 years and 9 months in prison for murder, shooting a sling shot at Emperor Hirohito, and handing out pornography depicting Hirohito performing lewd acts. Apparently, Okuzaki had also planned to assassinate Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei. Angry and unable to escape the past, Okuzaki has taken it upon himself to find out why two soldiers, Nomura and Yoshizawa, were sentenced to death by gunfire after the war had come to an end. With Hara and a small film crew in tow, Okuzaki visits a number of his fellow foreign soldiers who were stationed in New Guinea in order to get information on the deaths of Nomura and Yoshizawa. Being some 40 years after their deaths, most of the former soldiers' stories contradict each other and they obviously trying to put themselves in a better light, even when it comes to the question of cannibalization ("Black Pigs" refer to the natives and "White Pigs" were foreign soldiers. Japanese soldiers were often killed and consumed as well).

At time in which he is not receiving what he considers a proper response; Okuzaki does not hold back and attack the aged war veterans. He blames Hirohito for the war and for the suffering that he and the other war veterans have experienced. By telling their stories and by airing the dirty laundry of the Japanese Imperial Army, Okuzaki believes they can be free from the past.

At its length of a little over two hours, Naked army consists of only a little over a twentieth of the 40 plus hours of film Hara used to make the documentary. During filming, Hara came to dislike Okuzaki and the director has stated that Okuzaki seemed relatively stable due to his editing. At least, as stable as someone who beats up old men can be. Naked Army can be a difficult, tedious film viewing experience, but it is also a vital one for those who are interested in Japan's jingoistic past and how it continues to thread itself within modern Japanese society."
D. Dodd | coastal GA | 04/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a raw, searing film. I found this film on TV by chance (I'd never heard of it) and could not stop watching. It shows us a human being whose been stripped down to his core. Mr. Okuzaki is absolutely relentless in his need for the truth and some kind of belated justice. He's also insane. He needs the truth at all costs, even to the point of committing murder to get it. The men he confronts were seared to the bone by what they did to survive a war, and you don't hate them as much as pity them. Even decades later, the grief of the solders for one another and for what they did was palpable. For these men, there was no glory in war, only horror and pain. Watching Mr. Okuzaki untangle the killings he investigates is like watching a gripping who-done-it. This is a powerful film - one of the best I've ever seen."