Friday, September 22, 2006


The Criterion Collection has just added Nobuo Nakagawa's Jigoku.

Jigoku is an interesting movie. At its base, it's a morality melodrama about a young man whose complicity to an act of manslaughter on the night of his betrothal (or engagement, if you like) leads him down a dark path that eventually leads him and everyone into Hell. Literally.

Despite how long it takes to get there, I can't consider that a spoiler. The name of the movie means Hell and the images of Hell are predestined from the beginning.

This movie is beautiful to look at and was a huge influence on things to come, most notably the modern J-Horror movies that we're seeing remade so much in the US. In fact, this may be the most compelling vision of a literal Hell I've seen put on film. I also really enjoyed the running theme of death songs throughout the movie.

Unfortunately, I'm hesitant to recommend it outside those specifically interested in it historically or who have an unusual interest in Hell or the theology of sin and redemption. It's not that there's no pleasures to be had in watching it. It's most compelling viewing.

However, if you don't fit into those groups, I'd guess there are beautiful pieces of movie history that are more entertaining, say the work of Mario Bava, and more chilling examples of philosophically based Japanese horror, say Marebito.

If you've done a reasonable amount of exploring within those and are looking for more, then why the hell would you be waiting for my recommendation for? It's a fascinating, genuinely excellent movie that's way ahead of its time. Check it out!

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