Death by Hanging | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Death by Hanging 

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One of Nagisa Oshima's very best, this Japanese feature from 1968 is concerned with the death penalty and the public's understanding of a rape and murder committed by a Korean youth. The inventive staging is not merely dazzling but purposeful: a group of Japanese officials discovers, through a fantasy conceit, that the Korean prisoner refuses to die because the issues of his crime and his punishments aren't understood, and the film works through a series of imaginative reconstructions of the events leading up to the rape and murder. (The issue of Japanese persecution of Koreans is also pertinent to the proceedings.) The results are Brechtian in the best sense: entertaining, instructive, gripping, mind-boggling, often humorous, and very much alive. In Japanese with subtitles. 117 min. a Tue 5/22, 7 PM, Univ. of Chicago Doc Films.

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