The Naked Island (Masters of Cinema) DVD
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Directed by Kaneto Shindo
Produced in 1960
Main Language - Japanese with English subtitles
Kaneto Shindo's beautiful b+w 'Scope film, The Naked Island, made in 1960, is one of the few narrative sound films with barely any words. It won the Grand Prix at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1961 (presided over that year by Luchino Visconti) and was shot on the virtually deserted Setonaikai archipelago in south-west Japan.
The film chronicles the daily, silent ritual of a poor rural couple and their children living alone on an arid island without its own water supply. From dawn until dusk, their lives revolve around bringing fresh water by boat (and then back-breaking bucket work) for their crops in the baking heat. Shindo's elemental vision of a fading culture isolated from the progress of society is a bittersweet poem for his own dying ancestral vocation (farming).
Redolent of Flaherty's Man of Aran in many ways, Shindo and his small crew located to the islands for two months to shoot the film. The achingly beautiful cinematography by Kiyoshi Kuroda, and lush, memorable orchestral & choral score by longtime collaborator Hikaru Hayashi combine to create a hypnotising and moving document of people living life as they choose – from the land.
This BAFTA-nominated film was also an incredible gamble for Shindo. After poor returns at the box office on his previous film, Shindo effectively staked his company and everything he had on The Naked Island. Its success saved him from bankruptcy and allowed him to make further landmark films such as Onibaba only a few years later.
This Masters of Cinema Series DVD (#12) from Eureka has a gorgeous restored transfer in original aspect ratio (anamorphic 2.35:1); a 24-page booklet of essays and interviews, and an eye-opening full-length commentary track by the director Shindo and composer Hayashi which has been subtly translated into English and carefully subtitled especially for this release.
Filmed on the virtually deserted Setonaikai archipelago in south-east Japan, Naked Island was made as 'a cinematic poem to try and capture the life of human beings struggling like ants against the forces of nature', according to its director, Kaneto Shindō (Onibaba, Kuroneko), who made the film with his own production company who were facing financial ruin at the time. Using one-tenth of the average budget, Shindō took one last impassioned risk to make this film, and its success saved his film company from bankruptcy.
The Naked Island tells the story of a small family unit and their subsistence as the only inhabitants of an arid, sun-baked island. Daily chores, captured as a series of cyclical events, result in a hypnotising, moving, and beautiful film harkening back to the silent era. With hardly any dialogue, Shindō combines the stark 'Scope cinematography of Kiyoshi Kuroda with the memorable score of his constant collaborator Hikaru Hayashi, to make a unique cinematic document - now considered to be one of Shindō’s major works.
Publisher: Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Length: 93 mins
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 25th July 2005
Cat No: EKA40100
- Newly restored transfer
- Full-length audio commentary by Kaneto Shindo and Hikaru Hayashi
- Video introduction by Alex Cox
- Optional English subtitles
- Production stills gallery
- 28-page booklet with a new essay by Acquarello and a reprint of Joan Mellen's interview with Shindo.
by DAVID on 30th June 2013
What a beautiful film.A father,mother and their two young sons living on a tiny,steep-sloped island,whose daily life consists of sculling their boat several times to t... Read on
What a beautiful film.A father,mother and their two young sons living on a tiny,steep-sloped island,whose daily life consists of sculling their boat several times to to the mainland to bring back buckets of fresh water and take their sons to school.A back-breaking life interrupted by the elder sons death. Yet they carry on with their daily grind,rather than leave the island.The cinematography is excellent,the music is nice and the DVD sound is good-although there is scarcely any speech.Well worth buying! Hide
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