Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hiroshima 28, Patrick Lung, 1974

A Hongkong film set exclusively in Japan, and telling an almost exclusively Japanese story with only one chinese character: a reporter interested in learning about the legacy of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima in 1945. Patrick Lung plays this soft-spoken reporter himself, signaling his personal commitment to the humanist venture the film is clearly ment to be. The main part of Hiroshima 28, however, consists of a dense family melodrama centered around two young women brought up as sisters which starts of somber and quiet but grows a lot more hysterical over time. (Spurred on by the dynamics of the interplay between the two main actresses - my favorite moment is energetic Maggie Li's long, slender fingers elegantly grabbing somnambul Josephine Siao's lunch).

On the macro level, the diverging ambitions of the film aren't all that well integrated on first sight with didactic sequences set at memorial sites repetedly interrupting the flow of melodrama. But in the end, the film manages to extract an essence of pure (and in the final analysis amoral) negativity from both strands of its story, with the furious conclusion of the melodrama somehow mirroring the harrowing flashback sequence at the beginning of the film - two outbursts of cinematic excess bracketing a story about fragile normalcy haunted by death.

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