Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Alone On The Pacific

I can't call ALONE ON THE PACIFIC  a forgotten movie - I remember it vividly! This 1963 Japanese film played in at the prestigious Academy Cinema in London in 1964, I saw it then aged 18 and new in town, and it made a vivid impression on me, so it was interesting to see it again after 40+ years !

A powerful hymn to the human spirit, ALONE ON THE PACIFIC (or ACROSS the Pacific) by renowned Japanese director Kon Ichikawa (AN ACTOR'S REVENGE, THE BURMESE HARP) tells the extraordinary real-life story of one man's obsessive quest to break free from the strictures of society.
In 1962, Kenichi Horie (Yujiro Ishihara) embarks on a heroic attempt to sail single-handed across the Pacific Ocean. Leaving Osaka in Japan in an ill-prepared vessel, The Mermaid, the young adventurer must overcome the most savage of seas, the psychological torment of cabin fever, and his mental and physical breaking point, if he is ever to reach the fabled destination of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. 
Using Horie's best-selling book as his source, Ichikawa portrays the epic struggle of man against nature. 'Scope cinematography - with Horie isolated in the oceanic expanse of the frame - and a score by Toru Takemitsu, add to the drama of a film for whic Ichikawa received accolades. As the 'Masters of Cinema' dvd put it.
There are fearsome storms at sea, and longeurs of our sailor becalmed on the ocean in his tiny boat in the heat, when there is no wind, also encounters with ships at sea, and that moment when he almost encounters a shark! We also get flashbacks to his preparations, the items he takes with him, as he has to leave Japan in secret, as well as family scenes with his worried mother and sister. It is very emotional though when he finally sees land and finds himself outside San Francisco bay, after 94 days at sea - what a stunning achievement. The last scene has him fast asleep as his parents are on the phone from Japan.
Yujiro Ishihara (1934-1987) was a big star in Japan, but died aged 52 of liver cancer. His only non-Japanese role was as one of THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES in 1964. Kon Ichikawa went to to make that terrific film of the 1964 Olympic Games: TOKYO OLYMPIAD
I must also return to my Ozu boxset - TOKYO STORY (right) will always be a top 10 movie for me, but I must see the other 2 of the "Noriko Trilogy": EARLY SUMMER, LATE SPRING as well as his earlier THERE WAS A FATHER and THE ONLY SON. I also received as a gift 8 '60s Japanese films by Yoshishige Yoshida (AFFAIR IN THE SNOW, CONFESSIONS AMONG ACTRESSES, ESCAPE FROM JAPAN) so lots to investigate there too ...

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