The Kinoshita Project: The Portrait (1948)

The Kinoshita Project is a continuing series, looking at the Keisuke Kinoshita films made available on Hulu Plus from Criterion. 

If ever there were an appropriate movie to apply the term “dramedy” to, Keisuke Kinoshita’s The Portrait would be the one. Here is a film that weaves between comic weightlessness and heavy drama with almost unnoticeable ease. And when Kinoshita isn’t busy throwing jokes our way or pummeling us with dramatic tension, he manages to impress upon us, in his own inimitable way, the beauty of innocence. Yes, this appears to be Kinoshita in is prime element, unable to be confused with the work of any other director that I know of.

But despite the singular quality of the film, it turns out that The Portrait was written by none other than Akira Kurosawa. If it weren’t for the credits, you’d never know, because The Portrait bears almost no resemblance to Kurosawa’s frenetic brand of cinema. It does, however, bear the marks of his overt, sometimes overbearing humanism. Audie Bock, in her book Japanese Film Directors, suggests that Kinoshita had commissioned the script so as to challenge himself in new directions. In the end, The Portrait is all Kinoshita, but it also manages to provide an interesting aside to Kurosawa’s illustrious career.  Continue reading

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The Kinoshita Project: The Girl I Loved (1946)

The Kinoshita Project is a chronological retrospective of all the Keisuke Kinoshita films available from the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus. 

Whenever I read a critic describing a movie as “beautiful”, “poetic”, or “luminous”, I get a little embarrassed for the critic and for the movie. To use these types of superlatives is to reduce the art work to its basest levels. Rapture of this kind often indicates that the viewer is caught up in the experience of watching, almost to the point of being unthinking, and there is usually no interaction with the film’s worldview. There are, however, a few films that actually earn those kinds of accolades – Sunrise, City Girl, L’Atalante, Days of Heaven ­– but they are few and sometimes far between. So what I am about to write, I do not write lightly. Continue reading