A dazzling, unruly portrait of American–occupied postwar Japan, Pigs and Battleships details, with escalating absurdity, the desperate power struggles between small-time gangsters in the port town of Yokosuka. Shot in gorgeously composed, bustling cinemascope, Pigs follows a young couple as they try to navigate Yokosuka’s corrupt businessmen, yakuza, and their own unsure future together. With its breakneck pacing and constantly inventive cinematography, this film marked Shohei Imamura as a major voice in Japanese cinema. —The Criterion Collection
Shohei Imamura’s ribald, darkly comic films about messy human relationships and coarse, indomitable women repelled early European critics who had grown to cherish the graceful, exotic image of Japan typified by Kenji Mizoguchi films. Yet Imamura remains a critically important director, both as one of the seminal Japanese New Wave directors (along with Nagisa Oshima and Masahiro Shinoda) and as a chronicler of a side of Japan rarely seen in Mizoguchi movies or tourist brochures.
Born in 1926, in Tokyo, Imamura attended the elite elementary and middle schools that normally would have aimed him toward a prestigious university degree and a comfortable career in business or government. His love of theater and loathing of bourgeois presumptions, however, steered him away from a conventional lifestyle. When he failed the entrance exam for the agriculture program at the national university in Hokkaido, he enrolled in a technical school to evade the draft. The day the Pacific War ended… read more
Trucks crammed with black-market pigs, battleships filled with American soldiers -- they form parallel fleets, economic and military, enlisted in the same campaign: finishing off the transformation of Japan begun by the end of Edo. The only innocents here are the pigs -- civilians suffer but also connive -- recruited as brute trade's raw materials and as proxies for Japanese turning upon and consuming themselves.
At times violent, at other darkly funny, this is an outstanding look into the Japanese underworld during the American occupation. You can definitely see an influence on future filmmakers like Scorsese. Those opening shots, and the closing sequences, are wonderful. The Criterion set truly does Imamura, and this film, justice.
Did anybody else think for a second about the opening of *Touch of Evil* while watching the start of this? Imamura's camera pulling back through the streets, past the open doorways of one shop after another, each shop's particular soundtrack spilling out onto the street as the camera passed? ... And I'd second the comments below: utterly fantastic. (Also: the MoC Blu-ray is tops.)
This is a major Japanese classic. It made Imamura into an established name. It is a ravishing film shot in B+W CinemaScope(and you ain’t seen ‘Scope if you ain’t seen Imamura) but the theme and subject… read review