Friday, 2 July 2010


In the poorer quarters of Osaka exists a network of young criminals, seemingly rejected by society and forced into a life of unsavoury exploits. Shin and Ohama are leaders of warring gangs whose main concern is protecting their respective territories. Ohama’s gang appear to have the upper hand, as much of the film follows Shin balancing menace with fear. Caught up in the fracas is the naïve Takeshi, a do-gooder who finds himself in too deep after trying to sample to gangster lifestyle. Shin sees a little of himself in Takeshi and takes advantage of his innocence. Rivalling Shin’s propensity for manipulative behaviour is Hanako, a duplicitous prostitute who runs an illegal blood transfusion scheme. The two engage in a passionate affair, but Hanako’s opportunism soon pulls Takeshi into a dangerous situation.

Many of Nagisa Ôshima’s detractors have pointed out that he wallows in misery and destruction without offering a solution, but it is exactly this attitude that makes his early works so vital. Admittedly The Sun’s Burial lacks subtlety in its attempts to sketch a metaphor for Japan – the title in particular spells it out – but there is heart in Ôshima’s mission. The character of ‘the Agitator’, an embittered war veteran who observes the turf war dismissively, is the ghost of Japan past, and a brief glimpse of an optimistic banner ushers in a new Japan, one to exist in the future after the film. Gorgeously shot and scored, The Sun’s Burial is a historically important, deceptively nihilistic thriller.

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