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Before Acquiescing to Another Nuclear Arms Race, watch BLACK RAIN, Imamura Shohei's Film about Hiroshima

By       Message Stephen Fox       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   14 comments

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A scene at the beginning of Black Rain

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In reaction to Donald Trump's flippant statement, "Let there be an arms race," I can only ask the reader to take two hours and watch a great masterpiece of a film, Black Rain, by Shohei Imamura. This film will change your life immeasurably, and, I believe, for the better....

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It has subtitles in perfectly clear English, and is a must to comprehend the immensity of our situation globally with the new President so casually endorsing a new arms race, for no apparent reason than to make those manufacturers and industrialists who make nuclear weapons happy.

The main protagonist in this film, himself an indirect victim of the atom bomb blast at Hiroshima, at one point asks his mother in law "Don't human beings learn ever learn anything?" This is after he hears a radio broadcast announcing that the American President is considering using nuclear weapons in the Korean War against the Communists.

The soundtrack is stunning and perfectly appropriate, by Toru Takemitsu. You can listen to some of it by clicking on the link in the comment.

This film is the only realistic depiction I have ever seen of what it was like to live through (or die) at Hiroshima. It is in black and white, and is the most compelling answer to complacent Americans who believe that there is nothing wrong with continuing another bestially idiotic arms race. Seeing this film would get any sane person to support opposing further expenditures and further weapons production.

It is not a maudlin exercise in pitying the Japanese who lived through it. It is charged with profound dialogue, especially in the context of Buddhist mantras and sutras delivered in the several funerals that occur in the two hour film.

The film was developed from the novel by the same name, written by Masuji Ibuse, who began publishing Black Rain as serialized episodes in the magazine Shincho in January 1965. The novel is based on historical records and diaries of the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Ibuse was born 15 February 1898 and passed away 10 July 1993 at the age of 95.

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Black Rain won the author international acclaim and several awards, including the Noma Prize and the Order of Cultural Merit, the highest honor that can be awarded upon a Japanese author, a literary accolade bestowed by the Emperor of Japan.

The narrative switches back and forth between Shizuma Shigematsu's journal entries and other characters from August 6--15, 1945, Hiroshima, and the present, which is in the early fifties, when Shigematsu and his wife Shigeko become the guardians of their niece, Yasuko. They feel duty bound to find a suitable husband for her, despite three earlier attempts to arrange a match have already failed due to health concerns over her having been exposed to the "Black Rain" -- firestorm-generated, soot-filled rain that may also have contained high concentrations of fissioned by=products and carbon-14. Thus, radiation sickness is always in the background as this story develops.

Born in 1926, the film's director Imamura Shohei won two Gold Prizes at Cannes Paume d'Or film festival. Briefly, after World War II, Japan was in a pitiful economic state, Shohei survived selling cigarettes and liquor on the black market. His focus as a filmmaker were often focused on Japanese society's lower levels. He studied Western history at Waseda University, although he spent most of his time participating in both theatrical and political activities. He often fondly reminisced that a viewing of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon in 1950 as a vital inspiration. Imamura died May 30, 2006, at the age of 79.

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