Kanikôsen | Bleader

Monday, October 19, 2009


Posted By on 10.19.09 at 11:53 AM

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  • "Kanikôsen"

75 years after he was tortured to death at age 29 by Japanese secret police for his Communist Party organizing, writer Takiji Kobayashi has made an unlikely comeback.

His 1929 novel Kanikôsen, about insurrection aboard an oppressive Imperial crab fishing boat veering into hostile Russian waters, was adapted into a successful manga in 2006, and the novel was a bestseller when it was reissued last year, buoyed by a decade of unemployment and malaise for Japanese youth.

The new, second film version of Kanikôsen screens Monday 10/19 and Tuesday 10/20 in the Chicago International Film Festival.

Screenwriter and director Sabu is an odd match for this material. A manic character actor, Sabu's own films tend toward goofy surrealism, and here the tone drifts between earnest populism and postmodern kitsch.

Sabu's crew of incongruously metrosexual fishermen first attempt mass suicide, hoping to be reborn rich. When rough waters foil their efforts to hang themselves, they're doomed to continue suffering in exploited poverty. That is, until two fishermen lost at sea are rescued by a Russian boat where they find a paradise of feasting and cossack dancing, and bring the gospel of workers' solidarity back to their countrymen.

Sabu neither fully embraces nor really critiques the story's fervent idealism, leaving little more than a stylistic exercise. Some of the details are powerful though: a superimposed vision of the crab canning line as a classical painting of hell, the steaming, spiky, pink mounds of crab, the massive wheels of production that turn or stop as the political winds shift.

Kanikôsen screens Monday 10/19 at 6 PM for $12 and Tuesday 10/20 at 3:30 PM for $5 as AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois.

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