Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kaette Kita Yopparai (Sinner in Paradise aka Three Resurrected Drunkards) (1968)

Why not try a little Japanese 60's surrealism/race relations commentary in your movie today? Such is the way of Nagisa Ôshima's strange comedy recently released as Three Resurrected Drunkards on Criterion. The film stars short-lived musical trio The Folk Crusaders- Kazuhiko Kato ("The Big One"), Osamu Kitayama ("The Small One"), and Norihiko Hashida ("The Smallest One")- as a group of whimsical Beatles-ish buddies whose lighthearted lifestyle is shaken up when they're mistaken for wanted Korean refugees avoiding military duty in the war.

The boys evade the police but are later found by the Koreans themselves, who intend to shoot them down in their soldier and student uniforms so they (the Korean runaways) will be thought dead themselves. With the help of an unhappily married lady, our heroes evade death for a while, and eventually just rewind to start from the beginning again knowing what they know now. Seriously, the movie just replays itself about halfway through, with altered results. We thought the disc was broken or something for a minute.

Three Resurrected Drunkards is in many ways a dated piece of very 60's New Wave silliness, with quirky protagonists, cheery music, nonsensical transitions, a choppy, dreamlike narrative, and shaggy hairstyles. It's enjoyable in a goofy sort of way, what with the mistaken identities, backward conversations, and incredibly awesome costumes. But at the same time, it's a serious commentary on racist protocol against Koreans in Japan at the time, and works in some unexpected dramatic moments that clash jarringly with the wacky narrative. These elements don't always work together though, often just confusing the viewer instead of conveying a message. But at other moments it is emotionally affecting.

Ôshima uses some interesting shooting styles and storytelling techniques to give us a strange, disjointed, and completely unpredictable plot. The three stars are pretty clearly non-actors, but very enjoyable and cute as the hapless students, with good chemistry together and an appreciation for the quirkiness of their characters. They even get a few musical moments in with their song about the Imjin River.

Three Resurrected Drunkards is reminiscent of various other films of this period, but its inclusion of derisive political commentary adds a new level of interest. It doesn't always work on both levels of comedy and drama, but generally I liked it. It's unapologetically weird but also surprisingly sad, in a good way.


Further Reading:
Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow review


  1. Sounds really interesting. Something like The Monkees meets Run Lola Run?

    I don't THINK I've seen any of this guys movies as yet but I'll obviously have to get around to this one at some point. I'll take this review as a recommendation.

  2. Since reading this post, I've concluded that i am woefully under-educated with Japanese new wave films.

    But it also strikes me as so typically Japanese, to create a political movie about a boy-band.