Keisuke Kinoshita - Immortal Love (1961)

Japanese director Keisuke Kinoshita's prolific career (he directed 42 films during his 23 years as director) has been largely unnoticed in the anglophone West. In his own country, Kinoshita (1912 - 1998) was critically and commercially hugely successful, but his work was eclipsed in the West by his contemporary Akira Kurosawa. Both directed their debuts in 1943, but it was Kinoshita who won the coveted New Director Award that year, and his work was commonly seen as superior to Kurosawa's throughout his career. A driven man and a true lover of cinema, Kinoshita ran away from home as an adolescent to pursue his dream of becoming a filmmaker. When he began to work for the Shochiku Kamata studios during the thirties, he had to begin as camera assistant and work his way up because he was prohibited to start out as assistant director without a college education. His debut The Blossoming Port is unfortunately unavailable to us, as is most of his work, but what I was able to view shows the signature of a master of the medium.

On the surface, Immortal Love could be seen as a simple melodrama with compelling characters and an unusual if strangely fitting flamenco score. But what Kinoshita does with this movie is to show how time, rather than allowing for change, perpetuates the same traditions and injustices, cementing a social fabric that is both cruel and amoral. When Seibei comes home from the Sino-Japanese war, crippled and bitter, he gets obsessed with the beautiful Sadako. But she is in love with Takashi who hasn't returned from the war yet. One night, Seibei rapes her and uses the power of his influential family to bully her into marrying him. When Takashi returns from the war, they vow to run off together but Takashi decides against it at the last moment and leaves alone. We now follow Sadako's fate over four decades, and witness how she tries to elude her unhappiness, while social conventions and family ties keep her in place.

Nothing is more bland and depressing than to follow the utter unhappiness of a struggling couple over the entire course of a film (I'm looking at you, Blue Valentine). Thankfully, Kinoshita is a superior screenwriter and he gives us a far more compelling narrative. Instead of making Sadako a passive victim of circumstances, he writes her as a harbor of passive aggressiveness. Sadako and Seibei's marriage is marked by constant bickering, accusations and cruelty, but both sides are involved. Just as Seibei is not completely unlikable, Sadako is not entirely likable. Of course she tries to forget the fateful night of her rape, but in the process she also suppresses her own wrong-doings and ignores her path to happiness. And Seibei, although a misogynist pig, is a man utterly broken by his war experience, harboring an inferiority complex, and a co-dependency with his children. Seeing the story unfold over several decades makes one thing clear: people don't change. They might wish to change, and the future might seem like a desirable escape where they can project their happiness, but in reality, passing time simply cements the given circumstances. It doesn't change anything.

Stylistically, we're in for a treat. The anamorphic frame enables Kinoshita's camera to capture some stunning images of nature and sky, and his interior compositions use deep focus to perfection. The smart editing, instead of simply providing us with different angles of the action, builds up the scene dramatically. We often start the scene with a wide angle shot and progress by framing the action tighter, until we end up with close-ups of the protagonists reacting to an important revelation. It emphasizes what's really important in the scene in terms of story, and keeps the editing dynamic. One recurring motive in the film is means of transportation and Kinoshita uses it to underline the long-term narrative. Every time we jump ahead in time, someone arrives or leaves the village and we get a shot of horses or a train carrying passengers. Just like time passes unrelentingly, people come and go; except for Seibei and Sadako who are stuck in a relationship with no future, but who are unable to break free from it.

Kinski Watch V: The Counterfeit Traitor (George Seaton, 1962)

Eric Erickson, a blacklisted Swedish oil trader during World War II (who, of course, is an American who recently acquired his Swedish citizenship) infiltrates the Nazis as an underground spy for the Allies. Kinski's role in all of this? One minute of screen time right before the end credits roll, one line of dialogue, and a lot of gazing at the distance. He plays a sick Jew who tries to escape to Sweden on a fisherboat and chokes to death on a handkerchief when the boat is searched by the Nazis and he wants to avoid coughing. But even with such a meager outcome for the Kinski spotter, The Counterfeit Traitor offers a number of delicacies that entertain the viewer quiet a bit.

The main attraction here is the script that is straight forward and doesn't shy away from letting its protagonists suffer. Everyone in the film has some kind of hidden agenda they try to conceal from others. Who knows what becomes the main concern for everyone involved, as it becomes increasingly clear that the wrong information in the hands of the wrong people could mean being thrown to jail or, worse, being killed. Such is the fate of Marianne, Erickson's passing love interest, who pretends to be dedicated to the Nazi cause and secretly feeds intel to the Allies. In one very strong scene, she tells Erickson how hard it is to do so. The information she collects is used to bomb factories and important infrastructure, but what we now call collateral damage is inevitable, and she cites the case of a school being bombed as a result of her covert activities. As soon as she says that, the air raid alarm goes off and Erickson whisks her away to a bomb shelter, where she experiences the consequences of her own actions, and Erickson realizes what it can mean to cooperate with the Allies.

Other scenes are a too mechanical to be convincing, for instance when Baron von Oldernburg, a German Erickson blackmails to cooperate with him, witnesses how polish workers at a refinery are hanged because they protest against the inhuman work conditions, and suddenly declares that he will now work for the Allies because he is fully convinced to do the right thing. But in general, the film does a great job to convey the paranoid atmosphere of World War II Germany where everyone is fair game to the Gestapo, and people who work against the regime face death at every turn. Director George Seaton films it with an unfussy camera. The mise en scene is rather unpretentious, which allows us to fully concentrate on the suspenseful story.

Kinski Watch IV: Dead Eyes of London (1961)

Considered to be one of the best installments of the German Edgar Wallace series, Dead Eyes of London was a huge hit when it was released and earned Kinski a title story in the very influential news magazine Der Spiegel, exposing him for the first time to a broader audience. The film, directed by Alfred Vohrer who would go on to direct 14 more Edgar Wallace krimis, exhibits a lot of visual quirks that have to be considered almost visionary in their cheesiness. For instance, we get a point-of-view shot from inside the mouth of an old man applying mouth wash (the decaying teeth are rendered with a lot of love for detail), we cut from a skull that functions as a cigarette dispenser to a bell in the form of a black cat who's eyes are shining when someone rings, and Kinski wears "stylish" shades that reflect a poker table and the face of his interlocutor in a scene that antedates the kidnapper's legendary reflecting shades in Akira Kurosawa's High & Low. Vohrer uses a lot of pans, even when they seem useless, and matching cuts that insist a little clunky on certain visual motives, thus creating a sort of Argento-like parallel world, that is equally unsettling but a lot more innocent.

We get, however, a lot of violence and general disorderly conduct, as evidenced by the torture chamber in the basement of an asylum for blind homeless men (there are only two women in this film and both, of course, are little more than sex objects), the use of a blow torch as weapon during the film's climax, a death in an elevator shaft, and several scenes taking place in an underground poker club. At times, the script seems to get lost in the ensemble cast and we lose track of Joachin Fuchsberger's detective, and his amourette with a nurse that goes undercover for Scotland Yard is a forced and unfortunate detail in the story. But Vohrer does a good job at capturing the creepiness of empty, foggy London streets at night where mischief seems to be lurking behind every corner. Unfortunately, the script has to verbalize it and characters repeat over and over again how bad the "part of town" is where they happen to investigate.

Essentially, Kinski plays the same role as in The Avenger: a quiet and creepy henchman who bites off more than he can chew and has to kick the bucket for it in the end. We get more close-ups of his face than in the previous effort but unfortunately his performance is not remarkable enough that we could take anything away from it. Most of the time he looks about grimly, wearing large shades. And when he takes them off, he stares with bewilderment and astonishment into a world that only wishes him harm. The only time when his performance comes to life is when his character has to fight for his life, but at that point it's already too late. This is not to say that his performance is bad. Dead Eyes of London simply gives us more of what we had already seen in The Avenger.

Kinski Watch III: The Avenger (Karl Anton, 1960)

Fast cars, hot chicks, booze, mansions, guns, and a maniac who beheads career criminals? Sounds like the perfect mix for a fun 60's krimi, and fun it is. Though surely not a prime example of the German staple genre, The Avenger, based on a story by Edgar Wallace, has aged surprisingly well, partly because it was already old-fashioned when it was released. The critics shot the picture down in flames, calling it "boring", "ridiculous" and with "bumpy direction". But director Karl Anton, a veteran who retired after this movie, refused to try to make the film hip and modern and instead gave us a sort of timeless style, slightly dull on the edges, but reliable.

The story is of little interest, and by the time it is revealed who the murderer is, Anton had telegraphed it for quite some time. It is however interesting to see how politically incorrect the film is. Some of the exchanges are surprisingly crude and aggressive, even when relatively little is at stake. There is also an outrageous instance of oblivious racism. One of the millionaires in the film has a black servant called Bagh who is referred to as a "demented creature", an "animal from the jungle", and "the best servant in the world: he doesn't think, he doesn't speak, he doesn't answer". Instead, he sniffs at people's hands to remember them and is afraid of gun fire.

Kinski plays a dead-pan script editor, and the people I watched the film with said he was a "creep", so I guess he did his job. It is certainly a toned-down performance that stands out in an otherwise hectic film. It was his first appearance in the very popular German Edgar Wallace series, and he appeared in three more, always as a villain/creep/weirdo and it certainly cemented the type of role he would go on to play in movies for years to come. When Kinski would later talk about himself as a "whore" who wasted his talent in "worthless" pictures, one must invariably think that he meant movies like The Avenger. They are, however, greatly entertaining and the perfect thing to watch on a Sunday afternoon with a beer to take off the edge.

Kinski Watch II: A Time To Live And A Time To Die (Douglas Sirk, 1958)

100 minutes into the film and we're on. Klaus Kinski's first and only scene in Douglas Sirk's A Time To Live And A Time To Die. As a Gestapo Lieutenant handing John Gavin's Ernst Graeber the ashes of his wife's dead father. A cold and mildly menacing performance executed with the unglamorous but reliable efficiency of a VW motor. In this scene, like in the entire movie, Sirk avoids having to show us explicitly any Nazi insignia, so Kinski has to wear a somewhat militaristic uniform with a few emblems that could have been on a Nazi uniform but can not be specifically linked to it (except for the SS sign on his collar).

The movie as a whole suffers from the unfortunate alliance of Sirk and Universal Studios at a time when it was apparently inconceivable to shoot a serious film about war without having to water it down with a senseless Hollywood romance. While it is laudable that Sirk tried to show that Germans were human beings (even at that time!) that suffered under the circumstances too, the script uses the setting to set up a rather boring romance between the two leads. Any respectable Hollywood sob stuff needs some obstacles that the lovers need to overcome before they can consummate their relationship, and Gestapo, concentration camps, air raids and food shortage supply more than enough of it. And really, the movie doesn't even attempt to look seriously at the reality of living in a German city during the late years of World War II. Everything has to be presented through the prism of the love story central to the narrative.

It is interesting to see, however, how much quicker stories were told 50 years ago. And how much more screewriters used plot to reveal characters, instead of having them sit around and give on-the-nose speeches. The first encounter of our two love-birds plays out over a few scenes, and at the end we have a very good sense of who these people are, and how they relate to each other. And we can move on to the next plot point. You would be hard-pressed to find an original movie that tells story that efficiently today.

Kinski Watch I: Ludwig II - Glanz und Ende eines Königs (Helmut Käutner, 1955)

I will watch every film Klaus Kinski has starred in. As far as possible. His compulsive character paired with his disregard of any quality standarts for the movies he appeared in ("I only do it for the cash and never read the scripts!" he exclaimed numerous times in interviews) makes it nearly impossible to compile an exhaustive filmography, and some of his early work, especially the movies that only show him in bit parts (in some of them he is uncredited), is unavaiable. IMDB claims that Kinski's catalogue encompasses 135 titles. I think that it's realistic that I will watch at least 110 of them. And I shall begin with Ludwig II - Glanz und Ende eines Königs, a tear-jerker set in 19th century Germany at the court of the eccentric King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Kinski stars as Prinz Otto von Bayern, Ludwig's schizophrenic brother. He has three scenes, and appears for the first time 49 minutes into the film.

One of the first German films to be shot in Technicolor, Ludwig II retells a few anecdotes about the art lover (and gay man, but it's never hinted at in the film) King Ludwig. We get his bromance with Richard Wagner that ends in a lofty break-up, his struggle to keep Bavaria a neutral and independent state, his various love interests (chief among them, of course, his impossible love to Sissi), and his descent into (presumably) madness. Kinski's character Prinz Otto doesn't interfere in much of this, except that his first forray into clinical insanity happens minutes before Ludwig was supposed to receive Frederick III to whose unified German "Reich" Bavaria had just adhered. In a fit of typically German atrabiliousness, Ludwig refuses to welcome the new emperor, fires his entire cabinet and retreats to his shadowy chambers where he ponders his gloomy destiny. O.W. Fischer, German superstar of his time who plays Ludwig with all the excessive pathos he could possibly muster up, has nothing on Kinski, who portrays Prinz Otto first with a sort of beaming authority, and later with his unmatched creepy intensity. He makes the most out of his three appearances and his performance is a laudable exception in a film overcharged with kitsch and faux romanticism ("Look at the clouds!", Ludwig tells Sissi one night, "So close together and yet so far apart!").

Which is not to say that director Helmut Käutner is completely clueless. He simply can't escape the "Heimat-Film" tropes that prevailed at the time in post-war West German cinema. But we get a "walk and talk" tracking shot that would put Thomas Schlamme to shame and some nicely staged conversation scenes. When a sitting character stands up, the camera tracks back, anticipating the new geometry of the shot and allowing the character to fill the screen without having his head cut off. Contemporary directors could learn something from that: we don't need a new shot everytime an actor moves as little as his pinky finger. The scene when Ludwig, in another instance of comically German romantic-existentialism, leads his fiance Sofia (Sissi's sister) to the empty opera to show her how lonely it is as a king (while the orchestra intonates some schmaltzy Wagner, no less) is again nicely shot and makes good use of Käutner's apparent love for deep focus. On the other hand, we get one of the most atrocious green-screen shots I have ever seen in my life when Ludwig and Sissy ride their horses through the night. And the exchanges between Ludwig and Wagner are particularly insufferable. Furthermore, Käutner's obsession to use fades to guide us into every single new scene gets redundant very fast.

The script bathes in historic references that must seem ironic to the contemporary viewer, for example when Wagner exclaims that he will die an "unappreciated genius" (sic!) without finishing his Ring der Niebelungen, or when one of Ludwig's underlings, exasperated with the amout of money the King is willing to spend on Wagner's productions, snorts "Parsifal! Can you fathom what that's supposed to mean?" But other than smiling down on figures too entangled in their time to see the broader picture, the script doesn't achieve much. It doesn't work as a character study of King Ludwig II either. Flat and clicheed, he simply rumbles quotes that were supposed to warm up the hearts of the German postwar Bürgertum: pacifism, German culture, pseudo-poetic declarations love, devout nature. Other than that: romantic despair. "We get to share our misfortune", Sissi tells Ludwig after he suggested suicide as a way to solve their impossible situation. It pretty much sums up the film's attitude toward Ludwig's life as a whole.

Not much to see here (especially not if one looks for Kinski), but if one meets the film on its own terms, a good time is still to be had.

Notes from the Fringes: Oswaldo de Oliveira (1931-1990)

I have only seen two of Oswaldo de Oliveira's movies, Bare Behind Bars (1980) and Amazon Jail (1982), and I do not intend to watch any more. Aside from the fact that most of de Oliveira's work seems to be unavailable to English speakers, the entertainment factor of his movies is, in retrospect, not as great as one would think. Although the combination of virtually no plot, a lot of female nudity, horrifyingly hideous sets, subterraneous performances and dilettantish camera work sounds like the perfect mix for a lot of laughs and head shaking, the head shaking ultimately outweighs the laughs, and especially with the unbelievably bad Bare Behind Bars, it gets very difficult to tolerate it to the end. Granted, the sexploitation genre is not famous for its artistic value and insightful creativity, but de Oliveira seems to be an especially ungifted representative of the genre, wholly unaware of the intricacies of storytelling, or commonsense rules of camera movement, editing, and even genre tropes. And what I could gather about his view of femininity is not very original either.

Bare Behind Bars and Amazon Jail are basically the same movie. Both feature female captives that are being sold to sex craving criminals, both follow a more or less unrealistic escape plot that involves a surprising amount of nudity, and both end in a fugitive-like sequence with the ungainly women shooting their way to liberty, only to be brought back to their prison in the end. Obviously, both films exist solely for the purpose of showing as much sex as possible, and where Amazon Jail at least attempts to justify the constant fornication sometimes, Bare Behind Bars doesn't bother with something as nonrelevant as plausibility, and frequently cross-cuts between as much as three simultaneous sex scenes that are not explained in advance or posthumously.

Sexploitation movies are, of course, not the perfect arena for progressive feminist thinking, but judging from these two offerings, de Oliveira seems to be a particularly fervent opponent of female liberties. Not only does he relish in imprisoning and torturing his female characters, but their escapes always end in a clusterfuck of epic proportions. They are also baselessly mean and sadistic, belligerent towards men (in Bare Behind Bars, one of the fugitives cuts off the penis of a man she encounters), bitchy to one another, and, let's be honest for a second, simply sluts (Bare Behind Bars, again, makes it much more explicit when a disappointed lover of one of the fugitives shoots her after surprising her with another man). All of this is not particularly shocking for the genre, but de Oliveira does not have anything interesting or new to say about all of this. Other than zooming into hairy ladyparts, he does not know what to do with his disdain for women.

De Oliveira is also simply clueless behind the camera. I am willing to forgive his inaptitude as a screenwriter because he masterfully fulfills his self-set goal of showing as much frolicking as possible. The unpleasant nature of his visuals, on the other hand, is a lot harder to bare. The set for Bare Behind Bars has to be one of the worst choice of location I have ever seen, and while the outdoors of Amazon Jail makes for a nicer setting, the hideous interiors and shaky "tracking" shots are simply out of this world.

In the end, although I had a certain amount of fun watching these movies, there are simply too much objectionable facets of de Oliveira's oeuvre to appreciate it indiscriminately.

Yasujiro Ozu - Days of Youth (1929)

I conclude my quest into Ozu's pre-war work with his earliest surviving film, Days of Youth. A relatively light-hearted student comedy, the film follows the rivalry between Watanabe and Yamamoto who compete for the love of the beautiful Chieko. Again, the film is structured in two parts. We first get Watanabe and Yamamoto cramming for their final exams while courting Chieko. The second part takes place at a ski resort where they both spend four days with the student's ski club. They run unexpectedly into Chieko who spends a skiing trip there as well. The courting resumes until they learn that she is engaged to the ski club's leader and is there to undertake wedding arrangements. Watanabe and Yamamoto take the train home and resolve to forget Chieko. Bros before Hoes, one would say today.

In Days of Youth, Ozu's style is still in its infancy, but we can already delineate clearly what elements he would develop later. Most strikingly perhaps, Ozu already relies heavily on parallels, symmetries and narrative circles. The opening pan from right to left over Wasada University is mirrored at the end of the film, when the camera pans from left to right at the exact same spot. Similarly, on a narrative level, Watanabe opens the film by placing a "Room for Rent" sign on his window, and closes the movie in the exact same manner. In between, Ozu employs a battery of repetitions and parallels, most notably during the skiing trip where Ozu uses repetitions to underline the emotional changes of our two main protagonists. The director also uses cuts on action and his signature cut-aways, here still motivated more or less by character point of view. However, his fondness for steam and smoke is already well present and provides us with a first "unmotivated" cut-away. We get a close-up of a steaming tea pot (another motive that will reappear prominently as his career went on). The camera pans up, following the vapors. Cut to a smoking chimney, and the camera follows the movement of the smoke as well. Furthermore, when Ozu doesn't use fade outs to mark the end of a sequence (what he still does a lot in Days of Youth), he uses a number of match-cuts that smooth the transition between scenes.

On a thematic level, Ozu provides a first glimpse into his subsequent exploration of weak masculinity. Although Watanabe and Yamamoto are fairly different in character (the first being a sort of witty bon vivant, and the latter being more of a tortured intellectual), they are both failing at college and unable to attract Chieko's interest. Their rivalry is ultimately meaningless as they will lose Chieko to a man who is only mentioned in passing. Again, the only thing to do for the beaten and emasculated man is to leave and start anew. Chieko's courting by our love-crazed protagonists provides the backdrop for several slapstick sequences. Early on, there is a running gag involving black paint on Yamamoto's hand, gloves and hot chocolate (Ozu's obsession with gloves in this movie foreshadows his fondness for motives of hands and feet later on). At the mountains, he has to chase after his skis which glide ownerless down a slope, while Watanabe enjoys some hot tea with Chieko. Ozu also gives us a first array into the cheating tactics of the student. But as charming as all of these sequences are, they remain rather plain compared with the elaborate cheating scenes in Where Now Are The Dreams of Youth?, or some of the shenanigans in I Was Born, But...

Yet, there are some elements Ozu will either abandon later on, or refine a lot. As already mentioned, in Days of Youth, Ozu fades to black to mark specific time divides. The elliptic nature of the story (we get a lot of intertitles saying "the next day", marking the passing of a significant amount of time, which we don't find a lot in subsequent films) is also something rare in Ozu's oeuvre. In two instances, he even uses a sort of time lapse, which I haven't seen again in his films. Another rarity is his use of handheld camera and the startling point of view shots during the skiing trip. Yamamoto gathers speed while he skis downhill, and Ozu cuts to a point of view shot. The camera glides down, and as Yamamoto loses his balance and falls down, the camera falls down as well and rolls through the snow. Cut to Chieko who looks down on him. Back to Yamamoto's point of view. But the image is blurry. Cut to a shot of Yamamoto laying in the snow, as he wipes snow flakes from his glasses. This bold imagery is atypical in Ozu's catalogue, but we get some remnants of it in later offerings. The swift tracking shots in and out of the apartment door in That Night's Wife, for example, or an arresting point of view shot in The Lady and the Beard: Okajima walks down the street. We cut to his point of view, a tracking shot. The camera movement halts suddenly, and only when we cut to a shot of Okajima do we know why: he has stopped his walk. Good stuff.

Days of Youth is a charming and entertaining offering that gives us a lot to analyze. Second viewing is mandatory.

Yasujiro Ozu - That Night's Wife (1930)

Adapted from the Oscar Shisgall short story From Nine to Nine, That Night's Wife is, in my mind, Ozu's most successful crime thriller. Dragnet Girl might be considered a more ripe offering, but Wife has a visual energy that had me literally glued to the screen for its 65-minute running time. The script by Kogo Noda is also nicely crafted. The film can be divided into two parts: in the first one, Shuji robs an office to get enough money to buy medicine for his critically sick daughter Michiko. We cross cut between Shuji's escape after the robbery and his home where his wife Mayumi takes care of their daughter. The second part takes place almost exclusively inside Shuji's and Mayumi's apartment, where they take a detective hostage so that Shuji can be at his daughter's side until she gets better. Moved by the family's dedication and love for their little one, Detective Kagawa lets Shuji escape but the young father decides that he doesn't want to live a life on the run and prefers to go to prison.

With a relatively light-weight script, Ozu gives us a lot of stylistic arabesques. During the first part, we do not only get one of very few instances of Ozu cross-cutting, but he puts his own spin on it too. His signature cut-aways function here as transitional elements between the two lines of action. In one instance, he cuts from the apartment to the police chasing Shuji. We get a shot of a lamp inside the apartment, a shot of a pot flower, a shot of a streetlamp and some tree leafs, a shot of leaf shadows on a wall, and finally a shot of Shuji crouching in the dark. Later, Ozu links Shuji's escape and his daughter's critical illness by cutting from Shuji's feet, to Michiko's slippers and Mayumi's feet, as she lays sleeping on her daughter's bed. There is also a strong emphasis on hands. When Shuji runs out of the office he just robbed, Ozu tracks in on the imprint of a hand on the closing office door. Later, he cuts from the hands of policemen pointing on a sketch of Tokyo's streets, to the gloved hands of the cab driver who brings Shuji home after the robbery. Cut to the distressed father's face, and cut back to the driver's hands on the stirring wheel. It's a peculiar sequence of images that prepares us for the fact that the cab driver is in reality Detective Kagawa.

Aside from using his bravado editing and cutaways to make narrative points, Ozu experiments a lot with tracking shots. No other Ozu film, I think, has such an articulated camera. The most spectacular example is the way he conveys moments of arresting fear for Shiju and Mayumi. When Kagawa knocks for the first time at their apartment door, Ozu tracks in on the door, dissolves to the the same door seen from Kagawa's perspective, and tracks back at the same speed. It's a startling and singular image in Ozu's catalogue. What distinguishes Ozu from a lot of other directors, however, is that he doesn't use these methods to merely show off his artistic prowess, but that he intersperses them at precise moments in the film to enhance the narrative. Through visual means Ozu makes us feel the couple's panic as they realize that the police is at their door. That's simply great cinema.

Noda's script uses typical Hollywood tropes to delineate characters. He puts Shuji in two impossibly tense situations and watches how he reacts. That's what we call "revealing characters through action". The first situation finds Shiju fleeing from the police. He calls his daughter's doctor to inquire on her condition. Doc tells him that she might not make it through the night and that Shiju should go home immediately and be at her side. But Shiju has to lay low during the night so as to not get caught by the cops. Going home could mean being arrested. What does he do? Through his next choice, we know what type of character he is: he goes home. There, Mayumi holds Kagawa at gun point. Shiju has the possibility to escape. But his daughter cries for him. What does he do? He stays home and takes care his daughter, even though that means taking Kagawa hostage. Factor in the fact that he is willing to commit a serious crime in order to help his daughter, and we have a pretty good idea of who this guy is. And all of that without a single line of dialogue. That is a fairly common Hollywood way to characterize film protagonists while avoiding to turn them into talking heads. Unfortunately, as exemplified recently by The Kids Are All Right, Inception or Jack Goes Boating, it is presently a practice on the verge of extinction.