Kaneto Shindô's HOKUSAI MANGA
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
What a strange but interesting movie this is. It purports to tell the story of 19th century artist Hokusai who painted the world famous The Great Wave off Kanagawa. In the movie the artist also illustrates novels, argues with his daughter, and on the side paints what we now call pornography.
The latter category includes the infamous The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife and the movie depicts the creation of that painting in one of the strangest sequences ever put on film. Let’s just say that the octopi in this movie rival the Giant Squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in cinematic impact and leave it at that.
Several of Hokusai’s legendary feats of painting are illustrated in grand fashion (painting a giant portrait in open air only visible from above; drawing two sparrows on a grain of rice) but what really stands out about the movie is a young woman of a very free spirit who comes in and out of the movie at different times to enthrall Hokusai in ways both psychological and erotic.
The movie is not for everyone. If you are easily offended by nudity or matter of fact sex you should stay away. But if you are fascinated by Japanese culture and portrayal of the complex interplay of creative personalities this is a fascinating film. An added bonus is the graphic illustration of how woodblocks were used for the printing of multi-colored drawings and paintings.
Beware, however; the copy now streaming on Amazon Prime has badly translated English subtitles. You can usually figure out what is going on because of the strong acting but some of the obvious misspellings or mistranslations are a bit annoying.
Review copyright (c) 2014 by Dennis D. McDonald.