Among the many stalwarts of Japanese cinema, Keisuke Kinoshita (left) is one of the less talked about figures. Born in 1912, Kinoshita dreamed of making movies from a young age. After years of working in the film industry in various lowly positions, it was only in the 1940s that he was given the opportunity to direct his own films.
He was notable for his focus on bringing to the fore prevalent social ills in Japanese society. The 20th century saw Japan emerge from the second world war with its pride besmirched. What followed was the start of a national rebuilding programme not only of its economy but its morale.
By the end of the 1970s, Japan was one of the most developed nations in the world – a real economic powerhouse and a matter of perpetual fascination to the West. The themes explored in Kinoshita’s films are not the sort of things one could suggest of the land of the rising sun. He begs to differ – technology, rapid mechanization and development are not substitutes for a happy society, that between the noise and the fervor of apparent modernization may lie sadness, apathy and marginalization.
Of the hundred or so films directed by Kinoshita, the films below are worthy of some exploration. A spoiler alert is advised.
Oh, My Son (1979)
A man’s son is murdered late one night when returning from a night out. The son initially survives the knife attack but later dies from his wounds as his aging parents look on. The murderer receives an imprisonment sentence that is woefully inadequate; where the punishment does not fit the crime. Feeling the current system of justice has let them down, they decide to scour the furthest depths of Japan for families in similar circumstances.
After a ten year crusade they muster enough support to be able to push for the families of these victims to receive compensation. There is much which is conveyed outside of spoken dialog, the long train journeys to far corners of the country; the dismissal of families who have foregone hope of compensation and in other cases families who bear a sense of social ostracization.