DICK STEEL posted that during the mock interview segment, "we realized who outnumbers who – the result which has to be taken with a pinch of salt." I think he missed the point of that segment. The point was not that Koreans outnumbered Japanese in Japan; it was that Japanese ARE Koreans! Oshima makes this same point (in a more direct manner) in Sing a Song of Sex. Japanese are descended from Koreans, and therefore they are the same people and discriminating against Koreans is discriminating against your own people ("Koreans don't kill other Koreans").Tackling racism on film is a tricky thing. It can often sound too didactic and preachy, as in Crash or even Oshima's own Sing a Song of Sex. But Oshima found the right balance with Three Resurrected Drunkards.I also wanted to add that I, too, checked to see if the DVD had somehow restarted at the halfway mark!
And the lineup of films that appeals to an acquired taste continues, so far with Diary of a Shinjuku Thief, Shohei Imamura's A Man Vanishes, and now Nagisa Oshima's Stranger in Paradise. While it's aimed to tackle themes like racism which seemed to be shunned at the time, there's a pretty good mix of humour that takes the mickey out of a number of events, and really requires some patience as well because everything seemed to have turned over its head and started afresh at the mid way mark, so don't be looking to walk out of the screening hall, or eject that DVD just yet.Stranger in Paradise opens in a bizarre fashion, where three students (Kazuhiko Kato, Osamu Kitayama, Norihiko Hashida) strip down to their underwear at a beach and monkey around as if after watching Bloody Thirst and got inspired by the character's iconic image of having a gun pointed at his head. Eventually they do hit the sea proper, and a hand emerges from under the sand to swap two out of three of their clothings. All this played out over a very kitsch song that seems like chipmunks on steroids. It turns out that two Korean soldiers (Kei Sato and Cha Dei-Dang) had AWOL from Korea and found themselves wanting a new life in Japan, and with the Japanese authorities hot on their trail to repatriate them back, they need to find some scapegoats to pose as them, hence the sitting duck students.In a jiffy we see the three students get sent to Pusan, then to jail, then to an American camp in Vietnam, then dying out there at the warfront. Only that this happens in so comedic a fashion that you'll begin to question the legitimacy of it all the moment it begins. The film consists of countless of surreal moments such as this one, including one involving life and death, repetition in a cycle, and as mentioned, having everything repeat itself almost all over again, though the second time round it marked some attitude changes, where the students take their knowledge of what's to come, and goes along with the game from the onset. Other surreal moments will involve character motivation and design changes especially that of a husband and wife team, and an interview segment out of the blue where (I believe it's staged) people on the street are asked their nationality, and we realized who outnumbers who – the result which has to be taken with a pinch of salt.Somehow there are a few common threads, ideas and elements that run through the films so far. For starters, the music – they're all infectious and take some time to get out of your head, and then there's the shared dream landscapes the characters often find themselves in, like that in Sing a Song of Sex, and now Sinner in Paradise, where they seem to "wake up" from time to time yet unable to find themselves in what is deemed to be reality. I'm not even sure if there is one in the film to begin with, and wonder if paradise the title alludes to, is just that – a place without a proper beginning, or end.Perhaps one of the key pointed moments that address the issue of racism head on involve the Korean soldiers being terribly insistent that the Japanese students wear the former's military clothing. In the midst of a policeman, the Japanese students, through a series of questions, realize that the authorities simply have no idea what the soldiers looked like, and are only following orders to look for anyone wearing those recognizable togs. It's quite clear that it alludes to how we are quick to judge others on the basis of appearance and from what we see on the outside, rather than to spend time to look into something more deeper and meaningful than appearances. The ending also saw that realization and reconciliation coming too little too late, and has something it wants to say about the Vietnam war with the use of a recognizable motif. The notion of Koreans not killing Koreans can also suggest a larger picture that we shouldn't be killing ourselves. OK, I think I've gone overboard in desperately trying to spot some meaning in the film.It will probably take repeat screenings to truly appreciate the ideas that are put forth in an oblique fashion since with each scene comes more things that are curiouser and curiouser. At least it's peppered with comedy that you can laugh at while perplexed at the more stranger things that unfold.
Second of all Oshima never worked for him.Most important of all this film stars the great Japanese pop group The Folk Crusaders. Imagine The Beatles making an experimental film. it would look something like this.Oshima is concerned here, as he was in "Death By Hanging" made the same year, with Japanese anti-Korean prejudice. Socio-political events too complex and multi-faceted to discuss in a forum of this kind are the basis of this film -- which end with the recreation of the most indelible image of the Vietnam war.The result is a baroque masterpiece that foreshadows Rivette's "Celine and Julie Go Boating."
This film is weird. Director Oshima had worked for Jean-Luc Goddard, and is clearly paying homage to the wacky French director here."Three Drunkards Come Home", as this film is sometimes called, begins with a surreal situation of three students playing on the beach and having their clothes pinched by Korean (refugees? soldiers?). They are then mistaken for Koreans and begin to play the roles themselves. Then the story starts again at the halfway point, continues for at least five minutes the same way, and gradually diverges.You need to be a serious film fan to take this sort of stuff. If you aren't a fan of Oshima or Goddard, don't go anywhere near this film. If you are, then you have some idea of what to expect.As a fan of Oshima but not of Goddard, I sat through this film with mixed feelings. As in Death By Hanging, Oshima makes some strong points about the Japanese discrimination against Koreans. But as its apparently main purpose and theme, I feel this was handled much better in Death By Hanging, and I consider Three Drunkards Come Home to be one of his weaker efforts.