12 March 2007 | zetes
Gripping depiction of obscure WWII history
I had thought the title of this one was an American invention to capitalize off of the American film The Longest Day, but I do believe "Japan's Longest Day" is the actual title. It has nothing to do with the other film. It, in fact, depicts perhaps the most tense day in modern Japanese history, the 24 hours between August 14th and 15th, 1945. The simplified version of WWII history has the Japanese quickly surrendering with their tales between their legs after the Allies dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but a nation so wound up in nationalistic and militaristic pride wasn't ready to give up that easily. The film doesn't depict the citizenry one could imagine they would be mostly sick of war. But the military certainly was ready to go all the way, to have every person in Japan martyred. Emperor Hirohito, who is supposed to be looked upon as divine by his people, decided that his empire must surrender. Many of the heads of military only agree grudgingly. Many of their underlings rebel. Hirohito makes a recording of his surrender message, to be played at noon on the 15th. A group of soldiers tries to rally others not to listen, and they attempt a coup and try to steal the record. The film is long 2 hours and 37 minutes. We are given the names of every single character in the film I would venture to guess that over 100 names are thrown at us over the film, right up until the end. It's difficult to follow, but I don't believe it's necessary to understand every nuance of what was happening. The previous year, Kihachi Okamoto made what is probably his best (and best-known) film, Sword of Doom. Why choose him for this project? Well, there is at least one scene where that is pretty much answered (just remember that the Japanese soldiers still had samurai swords). Really, though, I don't think the direction is that impressive. As a film, it's nothing fantastic. But for the depiction of the minutiae of history, it's well worth watching. Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura and Chishu Ryu all have large roles, but I honestly didn't even recognize them. They fade into these historical characters perfectly.