Himatsuri (Fire Festival) | Chicago Reader

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Trouble in a Japanese seaside village, centered on a swaggering mountain man (Kinya Kitaoji) who, alone of the locals, refuses to sell his plot of land to the developers of a marine park for Tokyo tourists. Mitsuo Yanagimachi's 1985 film is centered on the tension between individualism and group identity that divides modern Japanese society, and that tension is brought forward through an ingeniously constructed narration that weaves a psychological portrait of the isolated hero with a satirical group study of the village residents. Yanagimachi's protagonist is no sentimental ecology freak, but a gruff, vulgar man who exploits nature for his personal gain—he boasts that “the mountain goddess is my girlfriend,” and feels confident that all of his outrages will be forgiven. Yet the natural environment—filmed in a sweeping, highly sensual manner that beautifully embodies the animistic beliefs of Shintoism—eventually gains the upper hand, leading the hero to commit a shocking, ritualistic act of purification and self-sacrifice. A work of exquisite sensitivity, corrosive wit, and great technical prowess, it established Yanagimachi as the leading Japanese filmmaker of his generation.

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