Chinmoku | 沈黙 | Silence [1971]

2/10 | 29.Apr.12
Chinmoku | 沈黙 | Silence

DIRECTOR: Masahiro Shinoda | WRITERS: Shusako Endo, Masahiro Shinoda | CAST: Shima Iwashita, Yoshi Katô, Don Kenny, David Lampson, Mako Iwamatsu, Noboru Matsuhashi, Junshi Shimada, Tetsurô Tanba | Japan

Silence is proof that not every film released on DVD by Criterion is a classic. It’s also another indication that Masahiro Shinoda is a director who can do wrong. Based on a novel by Shusaku Endo that I remember sort of liking when I read it 30+ years ago — because it was creepy — the movie follows the travails of a Portuguese Jesuit priest in early 17th century Japan after Christianity was outlawed and its 300,000 converts were suffering horrendous mass persecution. I had thought the material perfect for Shinoda’s wild theatricality and flair for striking imagery, but boy was I wrong. Scenes are filmed in no particular style or point of view, half the movie is shot in especially badly done day-for-night, and the entire movie, whether day-for-night or not, appears to have been filmed with telephoto lenses and using especially grainy film stock. The screenplay, which was also written by Endo, is atrocious, and the acting is mostly bad, although David Lampson as Padre Rodrigues is kind of attractive in a Margaret Keane painting of a big-eyed waif way; Shima Iwashita, who blows the roof off the joint in her double role in Double Suicide, screams a lot. On the plus side, Tôru Takemitsu’s score is excellent. Strictly for those people who involuntarily cry and vomit in horror at the idea of someone stepping on a picture of the Virgin Mary.

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