Himatsuri (1985) A
(aka Fire Festival)
“Himatsuri” is based on a real life tragedy, in which a Japanese man inexplicably slaughtered his family and then killed himself.
One of the best foreign films in 1985 (I saw it at the N.Y. Film Fest) “Himatsuri” is a dramatically intense, visually riveting story of one man’s fight against the inevitable encroaching of Western modernism into rural Japan.
Like Paul Schrader’s “Mishima,”which was made in the same year, “Himatsuri deals with the conflict between modernism and Japanese traditionalism, albeit the latter is a superior film.
Kinya Kitaoji plays the self-centered Tatsuo, a stubborn man who does what he pleases no matter who he hurts. No one dares to question him due to his blasting temperament.
The only thing Kitaoji holds sacred is the land around him, but he’s willing to destroy even that to have his own way. He befouls a lake that is sacred to the Shinto religion, spilling oil into the waters rather than letting them fall into the hands of land speculators.
However, when he unexpectedly experiences a religious awakening, Kitaoji decides to “atone,” by murdering his family, then committing suicide.
No motivations or explanations are offered by director Mitsuo Yanagimachi, who instead emphasizes the sacred relationship between man and nature, a harmony that grows more profound as the story develops.
The film was released to some English-speaking markets as Fire Festival
Running time: 120 Minutes.
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