Eclipse Series 38 Masaki Kobayashi Against the System
Masaki Kobayashi rose to prominence directing films that exposed and criticized the failings of Japan and its power structures during and immediately following World War II. His great three-part war epic The Human Condition (1961) details the moral trials and gradual dissolution of a soldier and administrator in Manchuria. Criterion is following up their superb box set of this film with a collection of Kobayashi’s work from the same period, via their Eclipse line, called Masaki Kobayashi Against the System. The four movies included chart Kobayashi’s growth as a filmmaker while revealing some of the faults of the cynical yet earnest approach of his early efforts.

Kobayashi became a humanist filmmaker rather than a political one and many of his films focus on criticisms of Japanese society, while leaving the audience to consider their own solutions for the problems he presented.
Kobayashi apprenticed, and eventually became a director, at Shochiku, the studio of Ozu and Naruse, Kinoshita and Mizoguchi. The house style was largely one of period films, family dramas, and often in the hands of its best directors delicate dissections of Japanese social attitudes. Living through the war and the subsequent American occupation, Kobayashi developed harsher views and the style of the films in this Eclipse set is more aggressive, often paradoxically revealing the influence of noir and jazz imported from the States. These films are full of dark shadows and moral ambiguity, virtually every character touched to a greater or lesser degree by the social corruption which followed the collapse of the Japanese Empire.

4 x DVD9 | NTSC | 440 minutes | 27.8 Gb + 3% rec
Language: Japanese
Subtitles: English
Genre: Crime, Drama, Sport

The Thick-Walled Room (1953)
Even early on in his directing career Kobayashi didn't shy away from controversy. Among the first Japanese films to deal directly with the scars of World War II this drama about a group of rank-and-file Japanese soldiers jailed for crimes against humanity was adapted from the diaries of real prisoners. Because of its potentially inflammatory content the film was shelved for three years before being released.

I Will Buy You (1956)
Kobayashi's pitiless take on Japan's professional baseball industry is unlike any other sports film ever made. An excoriation of the inhumanity bred by a mercenary bribery-fueled business it follows the sharklike maneuvers of a scout dead set on signing a promising athlete to the team the Toyo Flowers.

Black River (1957)
Perhaps Kobayashi's most sordid film Black River is an expose of the rampant corruption on and around U.S. military bases following World War II. Kobayashi spirals out from the story of a love triangle that develops between a good-natured student his innocent girlfriend and a cold-hearted petty criminal (The Human Condition's Tatsuya Nakadai in his first major role) to diagnose a social disease that had Japan slowly succumbing to lawlessness devolving into gangsterism violence and prostitution.

The Inheritance (1962)
On his deathbed a wealthy businessman announces that his fortune is to be split equally among his three illegitimate children whose whereabouts are unknown to his family and colleagues. A bevy of lawyers and associates then begin machinations to procure the money for themselves enlisting the aid of impostors and blackmail. Yet all are outwitted by the cunning of the man's secretary (The Makioka Sisters' Keiko Kishi) in this entertaining condemnation of unchecked greed.

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