Under the Flag of the Rising Sun Kinji Fukasaku

The aftermath of WWII looms large over the films of Kinji Fukasaku, but nothing in his oeuvre is as explicit about the ghosts of war as this 1972 Rashomon redux. Sachiko Hidari stars as the widow of a deserter executed under mysterious circumstances; determined to clear his name, she embarks on an investigation that reveals her husband may be a hero, or a villain, or a cannibal, depending on who's doing the talking. At first, the combination of Fukasaku's trademark face-slapping montage and the serene, dignified Hidari doesn't sit well at all, and you start to wonder if this isn't going to be an auteur-ial misadventure. But once the investigation is in full swing, it becomes one of his most cogent explorations of the people left behind both by the horrors of combat and the mass forgetting that broke ground on Japan's reconstruction. The film is potently and refreshingly homily-free, especially when dealing with the rehabilitated war criminal who casually writes off Hidari's husband as if it were merely a formality. And the director is typically all business when it comes to the pictures, with some visceral hand-held cinematography and brilliant juxtaposition of colour and B&W stocks — just when you think you're in the safe confines of the monochrome past, the violence changes to colour and sucks you into its painful reality. This is essential viewing for Fukasaku fans and provocative for the Japan novice as well. Extras include a stellar commentary track by scholar Linda Hoaglund (who demonstrates why this film was an aesthetic watershed for the director), a brief interview with Fukasaku expert Yamane Sadao (who details the origins of the project), and the trailer. (Home Vision/Morningstar)