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Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) March 24, 2007

Posted by ayasawada in Film.
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In short: War is bad.

Thoughts: Beautifully made and very moving. I find it astounding that Clint Eastwood was the director. Of course, there’s no reason why a foreign director can’t do a film in a different language. Heck, enough Chinese and Japanese directors have done so and I’m a big fan of Eastwood’s previous dramas (Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, Unforgiven). But even so, it’s impressive that an American director can get such great performances and such a balanced story out of an intense period of history.

The performance of Kazunari Ninomiya, a pop singer, is particularly striking. Perhaps we benefit as a western audience, unaware of his JPop image, but was certainly worth an Oscar nomination if Rinko Kikuchi could get one. Tsuyoshi Ihara was also particularly good as a former olympic rider fighting despite his higher moral standards.

Iwo Jima is elegantly paced and gorgeously shot. The colour palatte gives a real dry feeling and you almost feel the warmth of the volcanic ash emanating from the screen.

Story wise, it’s no different from every other war film, with a few overzealous patriots and the majority of grunts confused as to why exactly they have to fight. But the scene where the soldiers commit seppuku is really stunning and is the most uniquely Japanese moment in the film, perhaps rivaled by the death of Kuribayashi at the end.

I felt the film eroded slightly into standard shmaltz toward the end; the ‘balanced’ experiences of soldiers with the other side coming across rather contrived. But it is a very satisfactory account of a battle that many people like me never knew existed, from a point of view not often publicised by either the US or Japan. I wonder if Flags of our Fathers will enlighten me further.

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