Standing at the Crossroads

Japanese director Teinosuke Kinugasa helped usher in the so-called “golden age” of Japanese cinema in the ´50s with his visually stunning Heian period piece Jigokumon (“Gate of Hell”). Kinugasa’s career began in the silent-film era, and even his earliest work bears the hallmarks of an innovative directorial mind. Jujiro (“Crossroads”), released in 1928, represented a consciously commercial attempt at filmmaking, as his previous feature, Kurutta Ippeji (“Page of Madness”) was aggressively avant-garde and a bit of a nightmare -- albeit, a beautiful nightmare -- for both his studio and audiences alike. Jujiro is another period piece, recounting the tale of Rikiya (Junosuke Bando), a ronin who is seriously injured while slaying his romantic rival; Rikiya turns to his sister Okiku (Akiko Chihaya) for aid. Okiku faithfully nurses her brother back to health, thereby making her an accomplice to his crime. Both Rikiya and Okiku descend into madness -- he from fever, her from the stress of caring for him. Kinugasa uses methods years ahead of his time to create an expressionist fever dream of filial piety, insanity, lust and sacrifice: His moving camera and hallucinatory close-ups presage the German Expressionist School he had no idea existed. A financial success at the time, Jujiro still has the power to dazzle a modern audience. The St. Louis International Film Festival screens Jujiro at 7 p.m. this evening at the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park. Members of the New Music Circle -- Rich O’Donnell (Japanese percussion), Carol Genetti (voice), Philip Gelb (shakuhachi) and Debora Summers (yang qin) -- will provide a suitably alien and enthralling soundtrack. Tickets are $8 to $10; call 314-567-5384 or visit www.newmusiccircle.org for more information.
Sat., Nov. 10, 2007

 
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