Eijanaika

This 1981 nihilist epic by Shohei Imamura is witty, grotesque, relentless, and beautifully engineered. The setting is the Edo era, when local warlords battle the emperor for control of the country, and all of Japan is under cultural pressure from its long delayed opening to the West. Political loyalties and personal loves disintegrate; the only certainty is money, and even that is crumbling. Imamura follows eight major characters through a bright, bursting, impossibly dynamic mise-en-scene, leading up to the Eijanaika (“What the hell?”) riots—a frightening, exhilarating explosion of empty freedom, the freedom of those who have lost everything. A very important film, and possibly a great one. Alternate title: Why Not? In Japanese with subtitles. 151 min.

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