Muddy River | Chicago Reader

Muddy River

Kohei Oguri's film was the Japanese entry for the 1981 Oscars, and you'll know why: it's full of the facile humanism that the academy has identified with artistic achievement since the heyday of De Sica. Along the banks of a symbolically polluted river, a poor young boy befriends an even poorer young boy; they witness sex and death, and realize adult life isn't a bed of roses. The film is slightly better than it sounds, thanks to Oguri's extremely formal, distanced direction. The cold treatment interestingly inflects the sentimental material, though not enough to totally transform it in the manner of Fassbinder. The excellent black-and-white photography is by Shohei Ando. 105 min.

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