Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 4th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1972
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writers: Kinji Fukasaku, Norio Osada, Kaneto Shindô
Cast: Sachiko Hidari, Tetsuro Tamba, Noboru Mitani, Sanae Nakahara, Kanemon Nakamura
DVD Released: June 7th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Home Vision
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Twenty six after the death of her husband at the end of the World War 2 Sakie Togashi (Sachiko Hidari) is unable to move as each year she is deigned aide that is given to a soldier’s family is they lost a loved one during the war. Her husband, Sergeant Katsuo Togashi (Tetsuro Tamba) legacy is tainted because of unreliable military records that are in many cases appearing altered or incomplete. Unsatisfied with the answers that she is continually given she decides to further investigate the matter herself. Will she find what she is looking for or will she uncover a secret that is even more sinister then the half truths she has been living with all these years?
Kinji Fukasaku is one of Japanese most versatile and gifted filmmakers whose films were all but unknown to most western audiences. That is at least until he released the hugely controversial film Battle Royal his next to last film before his untimely death from prostate cancer in 2003. His triumph with Battle Royal also has brought about a renewed interest in his films paving the way for the current influx of his films currently on DVD including what is considered his most personal film Under the Flag of the Rising Sun which is now just making its début in the U.S. after years of waiting.
Fukasaku as director often worked miracles when faced with minor budgets that often fell short of his cinematic vision. In Under the Flag of the Rising Sun he employs the use of stills photos to flesh out the films narrative with images which are in most cases more powerful then any spoken words could ever be. Another stylistic choice that is used to great effect through out the film is the use of black & white with sequences in color. The contrast between the two accentuates the vast gap between living through the hells of war and those survivors who have move on. The films narrative structure resembles that of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon as both films are told from the perspectives of several eyewitnesses who all have conflicting opinions on what really happened. Despite the films often chaotic narrative the story is easy enough to follow mostly due in part to the films editing which is nothing short of perfect. The films central theme is one that Fuksaku would explore in many of his as he was a child of the war who still has yet to heal the wounds the war has inflicted upon him. One technique that really impressed me in during the film when an act of violence that is happening the film switches from black and white to color with the scene climaxing in a rage that is almost primal. Fukasaku is known for his violent Yakuza films and this film while it has it moments of brutality the violence for the most part is shot from a more realistic perspective that only makes it that much harder to stomach. At times Under the Flag of the Rising Sun is a bit to sentimental, still it is a fascinating exploration into the after effects of war.
Home Visions present Under the Flag of the rising Sun in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The image is sharp through out and black levels remain strong adding to the stark quality of the black & white photography. Colors are nicely saturated and flesh tones look natural. There are no problems with compression and edge enhancement is kept to a minimum. Overall the image is in great shape as it is virtually flawless and free of any debris or artifacts. This DVD comes with one audio option the films original Japanese language track which is presented in a Dolby Digital mono. The mono mix is evenly mixed as the music never drowns out any of the dialog. There are no problems with hiss or distortion and considering the films age the audio mix for this release is more then satisfactory. English subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow.
Extras for this release include the films original trailer and liner notes written by Tom Mes. Other extras include an a brief six minute interview with Kinji Fukasaku’s biographer Yamane Sadao who as always is full of interesting background information. Rounding out the extras is an audio commentary with subtitler Linda Haoglund who has provided the subtitles for most of the Home Vision Kinji Fukasaku releases. Over the course of the film Linda Haoglund who had the pleasure of discussing with Kinji Fukasaku his films reveals many interesting tidbits and insight into this film and the films of Kinji Fukasaku. Home Vision has out together another impressive package for their latest Kinji Fukasaku DVD release that is highlighted by Linda Haoglund excellent audio commentary. Under the Flag of the Rising Sun is one of Kinji Fukasaku most intimate films’ that explores the horrors of war in a unflinching and uncompromising way, recommended.