Movie & Black & White & Japanese & Modern?
May 20, 2014 8:19 PM   Subscribe

I recently saw Rashōmon, and was wondering if the hive-mind had suggestions for more (live-action, not anime) Japanese movies that are black and white, but set in more modern-ish times?

Think 1970s-present, but with a Schindler's-List-style treatment?
Bonus points for dreariness (Rashōmon starts off with a rain storm) and awkward situations!
posted by slater to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The other obvious answer is something by Ozu, probably Tokyo Story (but possibly a lesser-known work like Floating Weeds). Ozu and Kurosawa are kind of the Beatles and Rolling Stones of post-war Japanese film: two very different aesthetics playing out at the same time. Tokyo Story is Ozu's masterpiece and widely regarded as the best Japanese movie of all time. (NB: I like Kurosawa better. I'd also recommend Kurosawa's Ikiru as a movie set in then-contemporary Japan.) Mizoguchi is the third great Japanese director of that period, but I'm pretty sure all his movies from the 1950s were period pieces.
posted by snarkout at 8:43 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whoops, sorry -- missed your cutoff of the 1970s. The only one I can think of is Coup d'Etat, but that's not set in the 1970s; it's set in the '30s. MoonOrb's suggestion of High & Low is probably going to be the most readily available black-and-white film depicting modern Japan.
posted by snarkout at 8:49 PM on May 20, 2014

Ecstasy of the Angels, 1972. nsfw.
It's only partly in B&W, and I couldn't get through much of it, even though I like the music.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:04 PM on May 20, 2014

Black Rain, the Shohei Immamura film, not the Michael Douglas one. It's made in 1989 but set right after WWII. Trailer.
posted by cazoo at 9:08 PM on May 20, 2014

Here's the entirety of Ecstasy of the Angels. I remembered wrong--there are only a few sections of color interspersed in the mostly B&W film. Still very much nsfw.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:12 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Teshigahara, e.g. Woman in the Dunes. Technically pre-1970 but newer than Rashmon by a bit.
posted by j.edwards at 9:26 PM on May 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I Live in Fear is from the 50s, but is all about very mid-to-late 20th century obsessions, especially the Bomb.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:43 PM on May 20, 2014

Kinji Fukasaku's Battles Without Honor and Humanity is a series about grim and gritty yakuza battles in postwar Japan, but they're in color.

FWIW, I can't remember modern movies shot in B&W other than oddballs like Tetsuo: The Iron Man or Samurai Fiction (which is a very fun movie that spoofs jidai geki tropes in a loving way, but probably not what you're looking for).
posted by sukeban at 11:02 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

The drama Eureka (2000) has some pretty fantastic Metacritic reviews.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:19 PM on May 20, 2014

It's two decades too early, also by Kurosawa, and perhaps obvious, but Ikiru is fantastic and otherwise meets your criteria. (Including awkward situations so perfectly executed it's impossible to watch them without simultaneously laughing and crying.)
posted by eotvos at 12:50 AM on May 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Was just coming on to recommend Ikiru but eotvos beat me to it. It is regarded by many as one of the finest films every made. Takes place in the 50's, but it is a timeless theme.
posted by jcworth at 5:43 AM on May 21, 2014

Your 1970s cutoff makes this question a bit difficult... A lot of the B&W classics in Japan were shot in the '50s and '60s. But a few films that haven't been mentioned yet:

The Most Terrible Time of My Life (1994) by Kaizo Hayashi. I love this movie. Masatoshi Nagase starred in Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train.

The Sea and Poison by Ken Kumai was released in 1986 and is B&W. It's a Berlin Film Festival award winner. Ken Watanabe stars in this one.

Muddy River by Kohei Oguri is from 1981 and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

If I recall correctly, Tenkosei (1982) by Nobuhiko Obayashi is part B&W (used effectively) and although the story isn't "dreary," the situation the characters find themselves in is pretty awkward!

A few earlier films that I've seen that aren't "jidaigeki" period pieces:

Enjo by Kon Ichikawa dates back to 1958 but is based on a book by Yukio Mishima (based on a true story) and is a masterpiece. You could take a look at Kon Ichikawa's other early films as well, like the classic The Burmese Harp and The Broken Commandment (Hakai).

Twenty-Four Eyes by Keisuke Kinoshita is another classic.
posted by misozaki at 6:34 AM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tetsuo is dreary (and icky and really not my cup of tea, but if you like Cronenberg and Lynch you'd probably like it) but fits your other criteria.

Ikiru and High and Low, as mentioned above, are also wonderful films (though outside your time frame), as is Stray Dog.
posted by johnofjack at 7:30 AM on May 21, 2014

Response by poster: Awesome, thanks everyone! :)
posted by slater at 8:24 AM on May 21, 2014

Shôhei Imamura's The Pornographers.
posted by Chenko at 11:13 AM on May 21, 2014

You can search IMDB for Japanese films that include black & white although I know for a fact that Ring is mainly in colour, with some bw sections. The bw ones I know from that list:

Electric Dragon 80.000 V
Bullet Ballet
Rubber's Lover
Funeral Parade of Roses (Just about 70s)
The Most Terrible Time in My Life (possibly all the Maiku Hamaa movies)
A Snake of June
The Morning Schedule
Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 (My number one favorite title of any movie)
Heroic Purgatory (This director is famous for his bw composition)
Yume no ginga

Most of the post-60s black and white are either low budget and radical or gritty and extreme in some way. It's cheaper to shoot and easier to light. In the 90s it was more a stylistic choice. Of this list, the Maiku Hamaa are probably the most mainstream. If you're into Rashomon, you might be better off with more Kurosawa, like Sanjuro and Yojimbo, or with Yoshida, Imamura, Ozu, some Masumura, Naruse or Seijun Suzuki's movies (like Branded to Kill) and other 50s/60s black and white.
posted by nevan at 4:59 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older You're Leaving Me?   |   Make Me a Maya Maven Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.