Capsule Review: “Night and Fog in Japan”

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While groundbreaking at the time of its release, Nagisa Oshima’s revolutionary soap opera is often as boring as watching paint dry. An uninvited guest shows up at a wedding attended by several former student radicals and, over the course of the night, exposes some of their most unflattering secrets. The result could have been a fascinating portrait of how personal hang ups undermine a noble political cause, motivated by Oshima’s own disillusionment with the Japanese Left. Instead, the film gets bogged down in petty drama and tedious debates over party doctrine. Still, if you can slog through all the Marxist-Leninist babble, Oshima’s brilliant direction is a worthwhile consolation prize. HIs fluid long takes, minimalist staging (particularly of the various protest scenes) and complex flashback structure are a marvel of craft and precision, especially for a filmmaker so young in his career.

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