Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pigs and Battleships

A series of films by Shohei Imamura is currently touring the country, and it landed in Nashville this weekend. Imamura's work is notoriously dark and disturbing. Since we weren't feeling very courageous, we opted to see Pigs and Battleships (sometimes translated as Hogs and Warships), one of his more lighthearted efforts, though it's still pretty harsh stuff. It follows a group of gangsters and prostitutes in occupied Japan as they scheme to make the most out the odious Yankee presence. Imamura is not interested in showing any sympathy to the Americans, but he doesn't really spare anybody in his sweeping condemnation of human greed. The movie is funny, disgusting and sad by turns, but it ends with a happy embrace of naive materialism, as we watch the heroine march off to achieve her dream of working in a factory and becoming middle class. There's tremendous irony in that, of course, which was not lost on Imamura. In fact, the whole film is layered with irony. It somehow manages to be a very sophisticated, nuanced social critique even while it indulges in gross-out humor, lots of sex and a pig stampede.

If the series comes your way, it's definitely worth seeing any of the films. Several of them are available on DVD. Sadly, Pigs and Battleships doesn't seem to be, but you can get a pretty good idea of what it's like from the trailer below.

*Viewer advisory: As with Killer of Sheep, this great film may not be suitable for sensitive vegetarians and animal rights zealots.

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