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Charles Moore
Charles Moore

The Best Ways to Watch No Greater Love in HD 1080p



Kobayashi makes very clear his distaste for authoritarian power of any kind (I believe he has an almost exact quote to that fact), and nowhere does he see more problems than with his home country of Japan. However, what astounds me about his movies is that he is very careful to present the issues in so much more than simplistic terms, and though there are "good" guys and "bad" guys, he is a strict realist and makes sure their motivations and viewpoints are fully explained. His movies always surprise and compel me, and now that I'm one third the way through his 9 hour long trilogy, I am remembering why.Say what you want about Harakiri and Samurai Rebellion, the samurai "hero" is no action star and his fights ultimately come from being cornered where diplomacy and critical thinking no longer works. Now, Kobayashi is in the WWII era and there are no samurai defenders of justice to save the day, only a complicated mess of Imperialism, nationalism, and patriotism that one lowly humanist finds himself in constant confrontation with. Getting a job at some ore mines, Kaji hopes to find a productive job that will keep him out of the front lines of the war while doing the best to preserve human life in any way he can. At first arrival (in a noteworthily dusty and windy fashion), he confuses his new bosses and their coworkers by claiming he can increase production by--get this--treating workers well and giving them an incentive to work. These terribly radical ideas that clash so harshly against the typical production cycle of "beat the worker, get work done" is at first met with some success, much to the surprise and elation of the workers, but soon afterward the military appears with a cargo of 500 Chinese POWs to increase labor in the mines, and Kaji finds himself a slave owner of hundreds of desperate, starved, unwilling "special workers." Now no one has any patience with his pleas as he attempts to find a way of treating the new workers fairly, stemming escape attempts, and working the complicated and corrupt politics of so many military, industry, and government men.You know where this is going, but despite the 3hr40min playlength, it goes by rather rapidly. Again, there are no samurai sword dances to bring justice and hope to the "end" of the first part, but nevertheless most viewers should find themselves riveted to the screen as fully fleshed out, realistic characters struggle for power and attention and try to save lives--whether it be other people's lives or their own. This movie was shot in the late 1950s, not too far removed from the actual war, and Kobayashi fearlessly and directly confronts everything he observed wrong with the system during wartime Japan. Historical cultural stresses are recognized too, as the Chinese laborers and Japanese masters are constantly confronted with dehumanization and racism, and even a lone Korean appears as a guy "who is hated by both sides" and, in his own way, becomes a massive wrench thrown into an already crumbling machine. The dialog is also very precise and meaningful, important in a nearly four hour long movie, and there's a surprisingly lot of it considering the landscape its shot in. Which brings me to my final point: this is all set against the backdrop of a mining country-side, and Kobayashi uses the natural Japanese landscape to backdrop an epic humanitarian struggle against a sort of severe and rigid lifelessness. The landscape shots themselves can keep you interested through much of the movie, and Kobayashi's use of widescreen composition would make Sergio Leone's jaw drop (if it didn't actually, it would).Kobayashi's storytelling, also, is rather a little more accessible to Western cultures, too. It's more Kurosawa than Mizoguchi or Ozu. Along with many references to Western influences, the actor who plays Kaji looks more like a Westerner than most of the other characters around him (during the dust storm scene he almost looks like Clark Gable...), and he even gets judged poorly for "so many Western books". I'm not entirely sure that Kobayashi looked to the West and found a much better solution to authoritarianism, but he certainly is not attached to Japanese styles of film-making despite his intimacy and familiarity with the culture (which, by the way, extends beyond even the typical countryman's understanding of his own nation). In this movie many direct references are made to the fact that Kaji does not necessarily fit in, and that his mentality is literally Other than the predominate Japanese culture. What makes it great, though, is that Kaji is no perfect being and the other characters are never simple caricatures. Kaji approaches issues with straight-forward critical thinking, and despite how strong his convictions, surprisingly never falls into idealism. It's rare to see a movie like that from any culture, much less one that's able to sustain it for such a long period of time.We'll see how Kaji survives being on the front lines. Methinks the dialog will continue but the story is going to get a lot more messy.--PolarisDiB




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