15 December 2004 | rch427
A brutal and ultimately pointless film
I borrowed "Himatsuri" from the local library, because I enjoy Japanese cinema, and because the subject matter was intriguing. An isolated fishing village is on the verge of modernization when a marine park is scheduled to be built there. Upon such a premise hangs many a G-rated film, so I was quite surprised to discover that the leading character in this film is a swaggering, boorish, violent man with few admirable traits. Although he (like all of his neighbors) is a Shinto, he is a tree-feller by trade, and has no compunctions against chopping down trees, shooting sacred monkeys, and committing other sacrileges against that nature-based religion. (Indeed, the film is all too willing to graphically depict violence against animals--and none of it is staged.)
The lead character isn't the only one who I found unappealing--the entire cast is quite unappealing. There are a few pointless and rather predictable subplots involving scheming women, lecherous old men and youths on motorcycles, but the main plot has a difficult time expressing itself clearly. The "messages" that humans are becoming separated from nature, that progress comes at a cost, and that crises can cause people to undergo a breakdown are nothing new to most viewers--especially Japanese viewers. And the natural-world issue is undermined by the star's mistreatment of nature. For Westerners, the Shinto element may be of interest. There are at least two good things about Himatsuri: the scenery--much of which is breathtaking--and Toru Takemitsu's haunting music. Otherwise, it's a rather pointless and brutal 2 hour descent into one man's madness. I can't recommend it.