Eclipse Series 28 Review: The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara – Black Sun

spK09Welcome to another entry of our feature “Eclipse Series Reviews”.  Every first Thursday (well, in this case Saturday) of every month we will take a film from the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series and give you our two cents worth on it.  What is The Eclipse Series? It’s “a selection of lost, forgotten or overshadowed classics.” Why have this feature every first Thursday of each month?  Well, why not?!  So, without further ado, on with the review of Black Sun from the Eclipse Series 28: The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara.

three-stars15Of the five films featured in The Warped World collection, this is the one that most lives up to its name. Without a doubt, Black Sun is warped with a capital W.

Meet Akira (Tamio Kawaji), a young Japanese loner whose lifestyle is as unstructured as his much loved jazz music. He earns his money by selling stolen scrap metal and cars, and lives (squats) in a ramshackled flat that’s about to be torn down by the city. All is well in Akira’s life until the day he arrives home to find Gill, a wounded black American soldier wanted for murder hiding in his closet with a machine gun.

Rather than being frightened by the panicked armed foreigner, Akira appears to be as overjoyed as a Twilight tween fan would be if he or she were to discover Robert Pattinson hiding in their closet. Assuming that all black Americans are Jazz artists, Akira immediately tries to tell Gill what a big fan he is. Akira knows about as much english as the soldier knows Japanese, which is hardly any. However, Akira knows enough Japanese to express his change in feelings for the soldier once the soldier kills his dog, Monk. Akira’s attitude shifts from “Negro jazz number one!” and “You are negro. Very good” to “Jazz and niggers suck!”

Despite Akira’s racial slurs Gill teams up with him anyway and the two of them traverse the city, making for one of the strangest buddy pairings in all of cinema. At one point Akira dresses Gill up in white-faced clown make-up resembling the cover of Charles Mingus‘ 1957 album, The Clown. From Gill’s inaudible quick spattered mumbles, courtesy of Chico Rolands‘ horribly overacted performance, one would be left to infer that he is not at all pleased with the company of his hostage/soon-to-be friend.

blacksun2Much of the framing and energized movements found in Kurahara’s previous two films from this Eclipse collection (The Warped Ones and I Hate But Love) appear here as well. And while his other films all excelled in the score department none can hold a candle to Max Roach‘s tone-setting hyper-jazzed drumming found in Black Sun. However, exceptional music, energetic storytelling, and even heightened bizarreness can’t hide the fact that one of the film’s stars is, through ungraceful acting, painfully distracting. Thankfully, the film’s strong open and memorable final scene (one of the strangest in film history) make for tight bookends on an otherwise lackluster collection of books.

If ever I decide to revisit this film I will do so in the vein of traditional silent film fashion, with the DVD muted and Max Roach blaring on the stereo. I know, I know, they didn’t have DVDs in the silent era, but I think you get my point. Surely, this film would be much more enjoyable being viewed as a jazzy silent film where the much-to-be-improved dialogue needn’t be heard.

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