Movie Review: Dora-heita

Dennis suggests Dora-heita (in Foreign Language/Made in Japan).  Videoport just got this film; gather round and I’ll tell you the story behind the story.  Nearly 40 years ago the legendary Akira Kurosawa, the almost-as-legendary Kon Ichikawa and two of their director colleagues formed a production partnership; dubbed “the four musketeers”, they planned to revitalize and reshape the Japanese cinema…until their first venture, Kurosawa’s beautiful Dodes’ka-Den (available in the Criterion section at Videoport) bombed and the partnership was abandoned (Kurosawa actually attempted suicide because of it!).  Flash forward some 30 years when the surviving musketeer, Ichikawa (Fires On the Plain, The Burmese Harp– both also only at Videoport!) decided, at the age of 85, to revive their long-dormant screenplay.  Dora-heita (translated roughly as “Alley Cat”) is about a new magistrate appointed to clean up a corrupt coastal town (sort of like a feudal Japanese Mos Eisley).  Thing is, the magistrate never shows up at his office, preferring, instead, to gamble, drink, and geisha his way through the  very town he’s supposed to tidy.  Of course, there’s more to Dora-heita than his sake-soaked robe might suggest.  A funny, wry flick, Dora-heita features the excellent Koji Yakusho (star of Shall We Dance, The Eel, Babel, Pulse [the original Japanese version, duh], and basically every good Japanese film in the last decade) as the wily magistrate, some witty and energetic action scenes and even the best use of subtitles I’ve seen in a long while, this one is well worth your time.

Published in: on June 28, 2009 at 2:57 am  Leave a Comment  

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