I was somewhat disappointed by this long-awaited Kihachi Okamoto film (released recently by AnimEigo) -- just wasn't as good as it shoulda been. Very long (2 1/2 hours), consisting largely of one breathless procedural scene after another (generals looking at maps, issuing orders, soldiers deploying, redeploying, etc.). Not much room for character development or real human drama (see Okamoto's far superior Japan's Longest Day for that.)
However it gets horrendously gory and shocking at the end, depicting the horrors of war in no small measure. "Sir, that woman we just passed ... she's holding a baby's leg ... " Lots of limbs everywhere (people committing suicide with grenades will do that). In fact, suicide becomes an increasingly significant factor, from the COs doing seppuku in a cave to a bunch of schoolgirls taking poison on a scenic beach.
Not much sign of Okamoto here, feel-wise. A shame; his dark humor and striking dramatic approach could have made this film far more compelling. Perhaps the script by Kaneto Shindo was just too busy -- the time required to develop a personal story (say for the wonderfully talented yet under-utilized Tatsuya Nakadai) was instead filled up by significant yet ultimately dramatically unfulfilling historical detail.
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