Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Japan's Longest Day|
Actors: Seiji Miyaguchi, Rokko Toura, Chishu Ryu, S˘ Yamamura, Toshir˘ Mifune
Director: Kihachi Okamoto
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
On August 15th, 1945, the Japanese people faced utter destruction. Millions of soldiers and civilians were dead, the rest were starving, and their cities had been reduced to piles of rubble ? two of them vaporized by atomi... more »
Fascinating story told well
Tryavna | North Carolina | 10/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At Noon on August 14, 1945, Emperor Hirohito took the unprecedented step of ordering his government to accept the Potsdam Declaration and surrender unconditionally to the Allies. (Although regarded as divine, the emperor was little more than a figurehead, being too exalted to bother with politics. Though recent historians have shown that Hirohito often worked behind the scenes to influence policy.) Fearing that the populace might fight on anyway, the government took another unprecedented step and made a recording of Hirohito's voice that would be broadcast to the nation, confirming the surrender. That broadcast was scheduled for 24 hours later -- hence the title of the movie. In the meantime, a group of over-zealous officers attempted to stage a coup, capture the emperor and the recording, oust or kill any politicians or generals who stood in their way, and continue the war. The subsequent events make for a story as tense and surprising as any fictional film. As far as I can tell, the movie sticks pretty close to the facts. The only major omission I noticed was that the film leaves out a U.S. air raid that caused a black-out, which in turn helped the emperor's staff hide the recording from the coup's leaders.
"Japan's Longest Day" is a cross between political thrillers like "Seven Days in May" and "Thirteen Days" and spot-the-stars WWII epics like "The Longest Day" and "Tora Tora Tora." It was designed to celebrate Toho Studio's 35th anniversary, and just about every major male star who worked at Toho in the 1960s makes an appearance. Most notable are Kurosawa-regulars Toshiro Mifune as war minister, Takashi Shimura as information minister, and Tatsuya Nakadai as narrator, as well as Ozu-favorite Chishu Ryu as prime minister. Most of the actors are excellent, and anyone who thinks Mifune was a ham should see his subdued but intense performance here.
For western audiences unfamiliar with the events, the movie can be a little confusing. It helps to see recognizable faces in the major roles, and director Kihachi Okamoto (who was an heir to Kurosawa at Toho) keeps a fast pace by filming in a documentary style. His approach isn't as kinetic as Kurosawa's, but he injects some stylishness here and there -- like the exaggerated spurts of blood that samurai movies use. Although I think Okamoto could have cut a few unnecessary characters (like two air force commanders who don't do much) and used more music to increase the tension, the movie is good at revealing the characters' motivations, especially how they rationalized their actions when caught in a paradox: receiving an imperial order that went against their sense of military honor.
AnimEigo's anamorphic DVD is good but not superlative. The print looks fine, though as lovers of Japanese films probably know, a 40-year-old Toho film can always benefit from the sort of loving care that only Criterion provides. It just doesn't glow like the rerelease of "Seven Samurai," and I think the transfer is interlaced, too. However, AnimEigo obviously cares about the movie, and their subtitling is thorough. They also include the movie's trailer, a photo gallery, and some liner notes that contextualize the events. I only wish that the DVD also included some sort of non-fictional documentary. The History Channel made a superb documentary on this topic, and it could have been a fantastic extra.
If you're a WWII history buff, an afficionado of Japanese cinema, or a fan of real-life political thrillers, then "Japan's Longest Day" is well worth your time. It's an absorbing recreation of an event that too few western audiences know anything about. And it's a movie that virtually every Japanese person has seen at least once. (It's shown on Japanese TV every August 15.)"
Japan's Longest Day
John Farr | 06/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Woefully unheralded war classic came five years after our own "Longest Day", and matches that film in conveying all the complexities of turning the tide of war; indeed, in this case, bringing it to a deeply humiliating, almost unthinkable conclusion. Japanese soldiers had been indoctrinated to fight to the last man for the glory of the Empire, so surrender is unthinkable to many. The film's power emanates from the slow-burning agony of impending defeat. Mifune is very much front and center as the War Minister who must shoulder the burden of making his troops submit to the Emperor's edict. A fascinating, minutely-detailed film of Mount Fuji-esque proportions."
Nothing less than the fate of an entire nation
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 03/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like many Americans, I always had the idea that Japan's surrender was pretty immediate following the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. However, Fat Man was dropped on August 9, and the country did not officially surrender until August 15. That is six days of doubt, debate, folly and insurrection.
"Japan's Longest Day" (a direct translation of "Nihon no ichiban nagai hi") is not actually the story of a single day. It begins shortly before the first bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, and finishes at the Emperor's surrender speech on August 15. The bulk of the story, however, takes place during the long dark night of August 14, when the fate of the entire nation truly hung in the balance. If things had gone only slightly differently, there might be no Japan today, at least not as we know it.
It is a testament to the skill of director Okamoto Kihachi (Battle of Okinawa) that even when the story is a matter of historical record, "Japan's Longest Day" is still full of tension and drama. Okamoto even manages to stick pretty closely to history. In this case, the real thing was enough.
The story has been done before, most recently seen in Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov's The Sun, but never with such scope and drama. Each of the major players is given a full story arc, including the leaders of the failed insurrection that attempted a military coup de tat in order to prevent Japan's surrender. How they could do this in the face of more atomic bombs seems like madness, but it is madness such as when Father of the Kamikaze Onishi Takijiro begs for just twenty million more suicide troops to fling against the American army.
As Toho Studio's 35th anniversary production, "Japan's Longest Day" stars pretty much ever one of the greatest actors from Japan's Golden Age of cinema. Kurosawa Akira favorites Mifune Toshiro (Seven Samurai) and Shimura Takeshi (Ikiru) share screen time with Ozu constant Ryu Chishu (Tokyo Story). Even the legendary Nakadai Tatsuya (Portrait of Hell) joins in as the narrator. I can't think of any other Japanese film that has this much talent gathered together.
Animeigo's production of "Japan's Longest Day" is not as exciting as some of their more recent releases. Their superb subtitling is still here, but the bonus features are limited to production notes. Even so, this is a fantastic DVD."