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  • Teen hoodlum Kinta is excited to be given the plum job of supervising the pig pen at the local US base, for which he'll be responsible diverting the food scraps to the black market, and scoring a good income for his yakuza gang. His girlfriend Hiroku earnestly hopes he'll leave the yakuza and get an honest job, but neither is she a paragon of virtue - she is drawn into prostitution and petty thievery. The story mostly follows their troubled relationship, against a backdrop steeped in corruption, which results from the clash of US Forces occupation against the poverty and aspirations of the people of post-war Japan.

    A scathing, even cynical critique. There is no tenderness at all here. Even the young lovers embracing is shown more as a desperate clinging than emotional attachment. And corruption is everywhere - there are no good guys. Confronting stuff, well-photographed, memorable as a vivid nightmare.
  • It's no wonder why Shohei Imamura's films are often considered a contrast to his mentor Yasujiro Ozu's films. Ozu's films are static, simple, about the polite middle class families with fairly uneventful lives. Imamura, on the other hand, was more like an amateur anthropologist seeking beauty or poking fun at a chaotic society getting caught up in corruption, nationalism, swindles of all kinds and its international relations.

    Pigs and Battleships is a turning point in Imamura's career - from now on, his films all have that characteristic style of his. Fast pace and constant motion, characters living on the boundaries of society, a satirical view on the society itself, and many interesting camera techniques which make the movie feel alive and pulsing, unlike in traditional Japanese cinema up to that point.

    In this movie, Imamura satirizes everyone and everything, from American soldiers, who are portrayed as dumb pleasure-seekers at the cost of everything, to Japanese (anti)nationalists, yakuzas and other opportunistic criminals, to the scheming Chinese gangsters who then in turn get swindled by a Hawaiian-Japanese fellow. This entire multi- cultural chaotic mess cannot be expressed more beautifully, and gives birth to one of the stranger insults I've heard in a movie ("International whore!").

    Imamura's film, like always, doesn't follow a strict plot line, but instead focuses on as many characters as you can shove into the film's runtime. From the moral dilemmas of the protagonist's girlfriend, who longs for a better life in Kawasaki to the yakuza boss succumbing to illness. There is so much to follow and makes the movie constantly fresh. In a lesser filmmaker's hands, this kind of free-for-all, gambit pileup plot setup would be annoying and unfollowable, but Imamura's pacing salvages the entire story and holds it together, climaxing in the best scene I've ever seen that contains pigs and machine guns.

    Another great thing about the film is how it's both comical and tragical in turns, but never does anything feel forced. During tragic scenes, there's never a cheap, tear-jerking musical accompaniment and pathetic lines of dialogue, same as how the funny scenes don't ever feel intrusive, they just effortlessly find their way into the movie's fabric. Every quality I've mentioned above is pretty much why Imamura is one of the greatest New Wave directors.
  • boblipton22 July 2019
    Hiroyuki Nagato and Jitsuko Yoshimura (in her first onscreen appearance) are very much in love. She wants them to flee to another city; her family has just sold her to be a mistress. He wants to hang around. He's a low-level Yakuza member who's in charge of their new operation; they have a contract to get the scraps off an American destroyer, which will fatten pigs, and he's in charge of the pigs. Much better than moving to another town and being a salaryman! However his gang is in upheaval. Someone has run away with the money for the pigs, the boss thinks he's dying of stomach cancer, and the other gang members are plotting on how to split up the boodle, once they've eliminated the old leader.

    It's an expert mixture of farce and drama in the midst of chaos from Shôhei Imamura. He had run with similar gangs during Japan's Black Market era. Then he had gone to work in the movies and his earliest known movies were as an uncredited assistant director of three of Ozu's comedies of life among the upper middle class. It's hard to say what Imamura learned from Ozu, except to do exactly the opposite. Ozu's people love each other and gently guide their family towards socially acceptable goals. Money is never mentioned. the set design is impeccable in that simple Japanese style that Ozu seems to have helped define, and the camera is placed humbly on a tatami mat adoringly to gaze up at the actors in long takes. Imamura sets his story in the docklands outside a US Naval base, where cheap and gaudy bars sit cheek-by-jowl with cheap and gaudy brothels. Everyone talks about money, They're deep in debt, they value other people solely for what they can be hustled into doing for them, and the camera occasionally spirals up in a crane shot to spin around during a gang rape.

    The only way to make this a comedy is to despise the characters in the movie, and Imamura does so in the most heartless manner. He pauses occasionally to offer an anthropologist's view of the people of this Pandemonium for his audience. He can afford to; he got out. Are any of the people in this movie smart enough to?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Because I am now currently working on an essay concerning Japanese New Wave cinema, I have been delving into a number of films directed by the likes of Oshima Nagisa, Wakamatsu Koji, and Masumura Yasuzo as well as films by the French directors Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Melville whose own films in France's New Wave movement paralleled that of the Japanese movement resulting in influences crossing between the filmic world of the two countries. Oshima is normally the standard bearer for the Japanese New Wave movement after the release of his debut film Streets of Love and Hope (1959) and his work throughout the sixties would have a powerful intellectual leftist bent confronting such issues as discrimination, poverty, and disgust with Stalinist influenced violence. On the other end of the spectrum Wakamatsu Koji would be written off by many critics because of his primary involvement in pink films, including such disturbing works as The Embryo Hunts in Secret (1968) and Go Go Second Time Virgin (1969). Masumura's works would often straddle between intellectual leftist cinema and pink films, but such films as Kisses (1957) would open the doors for new directors trying to escape from the filmic ideals of Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, and Kobayashi.

    Amongst these New Wave directors was the figure of Imamura Shohei. Comparing himself to Oshima Nagisa it is reported that Imamura said, "I'm a country farmer; Oshima Nagisa is a samurai." While this quote can be read on many different levels, one way it can be interpreted is that Imamura's films tend to be more earthy than Oshima's and while still threaded throughout with intelligence they are not quite as highbrow as some of Oshima's films, i.e. Death By Hanging (1968), Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (1968), and The Man Who Left His Will on Film (1970). Supporting this earthly quality of his films, Imamura has stated that his films generally deal with the lower extremities of the body rather than the upper extremities.

    Hogs and Warships concerns the daily life of Kinta, a smalltime gangster in Yokosuka who spends most of his time hustling American sailors and taking them to the local brothels. In fact, the world of Kinta and those around him are completely linked with the naval base, because the American sailors are who bring the money into the squalid town. When not acting as a gopher for his superiors, Kinta spends his time lounging around or seeing his eighteen-year old girlfriend Haruko. Haruko, much more practical minded than her boyfriend, wants Kinta to give up his life as a gangster and become a factory worker with her uncle in Kawasaki. However, Kinta is completely against the idea because he does not want to end up like a wage-slave like his father who was dumped by his company after he got sick. Therefore, he wants to make money instead through being a band leader or a pimp instead of living a complete hand-to-mouth existence as a factory worker.

    Kinta believes that he has received a good opportunity to improve his and Haruko's standard in life when his boss appoints him as chief of a piggery. However, there are several complications because of the difficulties receiving scraps to feed the pigs and this leads to a number of problems for Kinta and Haruko.

    While on first glance, Hogs and Warships might seem to be typical yakuza film fare, it is fact laced with a strong social commentary on Japan's reliance on America and its "support" of America's further military actions within Asia, especially the Korean War. While there are indeed some quite comic moments in the film, there are also some brutal ones as well such as when a drunken Haruko has her run in with three sailors. While not always a pleasant viewing, Hogs and Warships is a must for those who are interested in the films of Imamura Shohei or Japanese New Wave cinema as a whole.
  • It's really interesting to see one of the early works of Imamura. This film includes epitomes of the overall style of the great director: depiction of the lower, outlaw parts of Japanese society; criticizing both the authority and the society for their conformism with prevailing conditions; use of animals(namely pigs for this film) as an allegory for individuals (here it should be underlined that this object of allegory beats up its master!); and characterizing women as determined individuals who have power within the society, and who are more conscious than men. In order to trace the sources of the stylized director who made brilliant films like Kuroi Ame, Narayama bushiko, and Unagi, this film is a must see.
  • "This film is entirely fictional" states the film in the very beginning, lingering purposefully on the faces of bawling drunk Americans wandering the nightly streets, some harassed by, others looking for company. You don't really have to know Imamura at all to recognize the delicious irony. The beginning is so full of impressions, smells and life only Welles' "Touch of Evil" (1958) bests this in how in just a few minutes we're completely in the place and breathe its air. The sweaty chaos of the close-leaning alleys, kisses beneath stairs.

    Welles is also echoed in the beautifully fluent tracking shots. It's interesting to read Imamura's statements made during the sixties and later, when he recalls Ozu's intention of a highly aestheticized cinema, and his own, more anthropological, perhaps more real. These kinds of comments distracted me for a long time – I wasn't expecting visually strong films, which Imamura's are, neither was I prepared to see so many fresh ideas, of which there are many.

    I'm not completely satisfied with the ending, but I'll have to wait and see whether it'll grow on me. It is, on one hand, a successful melange of both the sadistic and ironic, but on the other it brings the film to a close perhaps too neatly. Not that I have any idea as to how to make it better, but it's too much of a showdown, and although Imamura plays it to great comic effect with a tragic undersong, it's a bit too excessive to my liking.

    The Criterion Collection has released this on DVD (Region 1) as part of the 'Pigs, Pimps & Prostitutes' boxset that also includes "Akasen satsui" ('Intentions of Murder', 1963) and "Nippin konchûki" ('The Insect Woman', 1963). Masters of Cinema have released this on a Region B Blu- ray that also includes an early Imamura film, his debut actually, "Nusumareta yokujô" ('Stolen Desire', 1958).
  • Shohei Imamura films continue to be showcased in the Japanese Film Festival, and Hogs and Warships is a tale of pimps, gangsters and prostitutes put together in a melting pot that is the streets of Yokosuka, a port town where US Navy personnel spend their R&R in postwar Japan. And I suppose you know that means painting the town red with drink and women, with the Japanese folk all eager to make a quick buck through the provision of services.

    I think there is no love shown here in painting, through the course of the film, how the pigs can refer to both the American soldiers - where the rowdy rank and file chasing skirts to bed, and the officers portrayed as more than willing to keep mistresses - and the Japanese men themselves who are pimping their town/city/country, where everyone's thinking of making good money in the shortest possible time. As an outcome, there's a whole load of black comedy that Imamura crafts in the film, where gangsters are constantly scheming and looking to outwit rivals, and the women well, relegated to either the backlanes waiting for pimps to bring in business, or pandering to the notion of being a kept woman for a better life overseas.

    Hogs and Warships, or Pigs and Battleships, begins with showing the bleak picture of the impoverished in Yokosuka out to make a living through all means possible, despite the clamp down on bars and establishments by the Shore Patrol, that seems more symbolic and hence hypocritical in nature even, where a prostitute lashes out at a SP personnel for visiting her brothel just before the closure. After a quick introduction we're introduced to the protagonists in the lovebird couple Kinta (Hiroyuki Nagato) and Haruko (Jitsuko Yoshimura, who followed up this film with Onibaba, also featured in last year's JFF), one on each side of the sexes to touch on their respective strategies to better their lives.

    Kinta's the quintessential easy-going, happy go lucky and unlikely gangster, where he thinks the money is with running with the gangsters, although he soon finds out his recruitment besides helping to operate the black market hog business, is to become the fall guy for practically everything that goes wrong for the gang, from the comical disposal of a corpse, to taking the rap for the gangster chief should it come down to that. With that comes the promise of riches beyond his imagination, with which he can pursue his dream of becoming a band manager.

    Haruko is that steely lady that we've come accustomed to with Imamura's characterization of the fairer sex. Like the other romantic leading ladies in films like A Flame at the Pier and Good for Nothing, they possess this inexplicable hope that they are able to change their man through love. Here, Haruko persuades quite unsuccessfully for Kinta to give up his life of crime, wanting him to work in a factory, which to Kinta is a dead end job. The story of Haruko serves to be more interesting than the rest, especially through Jitsuko Yoshimura's performance where in the finale you can feel her resolve jumping right out of the screen in her determination to create a new life away from the old one where mistakes have been made and old hopes shattered.

    It's the life and times of the working class during the era, and comes with a scene that's much talked about when all hell breaks loose on the streets of Yokosuka, where everything, including hundreds of pigs, comes together for that literal big bang finale complete with action, comedy and that tinge of poignancy even. With cinematography at its inventive best (the continuous spin from an eye in the sky angle when Haruko finds herself trapped in trouble was totally unexpected and made quite an impact on the passage of time), I found myself more interested with how the pachinko machine was manually operated at the backend by a number of hostesses working to feed those ball bearings into the player's machines!
  • Shôhei Imamura's "Pigs and Battleships" is a very well crafted film. Despite this, it's a very unpleasant film and probably won't appeal to most viewers.

    This film is set amid the social chaos that followed World War II in Japan. Now an occupied nation, poverty and crime are rampant. The film specifically focuses on the very lowest elements of society-- grifters, pimps, prostitutes and gangs. They are a uniformly disreputable group of people in the film--and because of that, it's very difficult to care in the least about these folks. And, because you don't really care about them, this makes the film do hard to enjoy. But this isn't necessarily a criticism--Imamura wanted to shock audiences and make social commentary about this as well as the country's ambivalence about having American troops in their land. On one hand, some folks admire the soldiers and think they are the greatest in the world, whereas others see them much like how hyenas view lions--they are just waiting to pick up their scraps. It's all very depressing and awful. The only bright spot is at the end. Following a crazy scene involving death, escaped pigs and total chaos are signs that perhaps ONE damaged soul might just make her escape. Bleak...but powerful.
  • In any given economic scenario, it is easy to see how poor people become more poor while their rich counterparts are able to accumulate more wealth. This is depicted in 'Pigs and Battleships' through the sufferings experienced by a young Japanese boy who asks his girl friend to stop the sale of her body. Foreign occupation and rampant corruption are responsible for the decline in moral as well as social values of an occupied land. This idea has found complete favor in this film. A filmmaker cannot turn a blind eye at all to ills of the society in which he or she is living. After the making of Japanese film 'Pigs and Battleships', nobody can dare to accuse iconoclast Japanese director late Shohei Imamura of trying to denigrate Japan's image in the eyes of foreign powers. Director Imamura has always made it a point to have an honest yet frank portrayal of Japan's undesirable people in his films. By remaining honest to himself as well as his art, director Imamura has always portrayed what he has witnessed with his own eyes.
  • Rampaging yakuza of the juvenile type, bad losers at mahjong, lots of screaming, running about and overacting. Sound familiar? I'm afraid so and it was only about halfway through I realised this was probably intended as a comedy. To be fair to director Shohei Imamura this is a 1961 film and was at the forefront of the Japanese 'New Wave'. Prior to this, running and jumping about film, most of Japanese cinema had been much more mannered, serene and dedicated to promoting the beauty and art of the Japanese way of life. Here at least an angry man is putting his foot down and having a go at the US occupation forces and their parasitic brethren, the aforementioned, yakuza. Not an easy watch, not least because everyone (excepting one) is horrible, and the comedic moments are just not funny any more, even if they seemed so to a far eastern cinemagoer almost 60 years ago.
  • There are some interesting faces in this flick. The head of gang Tetsuro Tanba, who thinks he is dying hits it big some years later as the Japanese male lead opposite Sean Connery in "You Only Live Twice" (1967). An old guy who defends the honor of the female lead ends up playing Admiral Nagumo in "Tora, Tora, Tora" (1970).

    Beyond those interesting connections, this flick is fairly complex and has a bit of a fatalistic theme. Some the main characters have to break out of their environment to change their destiny. Only one is able to do that. There are a few comedic moments. It is worth the time to see the plot. :-)
  • Viewed on DVD. Excellent restoration. Director Shohei Imamura has laid a very large egg with this amateurish, improvised, and not engaging movie. (I'm surprised the studio risked damage to its reputation by even allowing its release to art-house circuits! More about this later.) The plot deals with the lowest of the low level of mob gang members towards the end of the Japanese occupation in the late 1950's. The direction and acting are so bad that it, well, gives the mob a bad name. (You'll see better productions mounted in high-school plays.) Then there are the subtitles. What a mess. They are so amateurishly long and frequent that the viewer has two basic options: (1) focus on the titles and fore go the visuals and most of the dialog; or (2) turn off the subtitles and take your chances with the local (mostly Yokosuka) slang and dialects. (Of course, there is a third alternative: watch the film both ways--recommend only for those with strong constitutions!) Interiors meticulously recreate a portion of the local red-light district. But the action is clearly staged and phony. Same for the real exteriors where the action looks unreal even though the sets are not. Cinematography and lighting (wide-screen, black and white) are excellent. Music seems out of place and mercifully limited mostly to the opening/closing credits. Costumes often look like they are every-day clothes that belong to the actors. Now back to the film's title and its impact on the releasing studio's reputation. The battleships are American and the pigs (the four-legged varieties) are Japanese. But does the Director also have a culturally inappropriate and insulting metaphor in mind? The film is ambiguously anti-American. But seems clearly anti-Japanese. Skip this turkey. WILLIAM FLANIGAN, PhD.
  • treywillwest5 May 2018
    Warning: Spoilers
    There is no freedom in the world, only freedom from the world (or at least from the hegemony of American imperialism). Perhaps those with the best chances of achieving a bit of such freedom are, ironically, those who seem most commodified by imperialism- in this case women in post-war Japan, deciding to leave behind the world of desire. The scenes with the pigs are really cool.
  • This movie takes place in post-war Japan which is under American occupation and essentially focuses on a young man named "Kinta" (Hiroyuki Nagato) who basically does what he can to make ends meet. One day he decides to join an extortion racket and is put in charge of feeding hogs that belong to the local gang. Although she truly loves him, his girlfriend "Haruko" (Jitsuko Yoshimura) not only disapproves of his decision but is also one month pregnant by him as well. Knowing that Kinta isn't quite ready to settle down and support a family she decides to have an abortion which Kinta helps pay for. Meanwhile, the gang Kinta has joined gets involved in murder and soon things become quite complicated for all involved. Now rather than reveal any more I will just say that this was a complex film for which I may have missed a few nuances here and there. For example, the manner in which the American military was depicted certainly wasn't favorable--but then the depiction of the Japanese gangsters wasn't that favorable either. That said, it seemed to me that the overall message of the story pertained equally to deplorable members from both Japanese and American society and subsequently upon their negative effect on the culture of Japan as a whole. At least, that is how it seemed to me. In any case, I found this to be an interesting film and I have rated it accordingly. Above average.