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September 2011

Level 5

cast: Catherine Belkhodja, Kenji Tokitsu, and Nagisa ‘shima

writer and director: Chris Marker

105 minutes (12) 1997
Optimum Classic DVD Region 2

RATING: 1/10
review by Tony Hill

Level Five

Oh dear, what can I say? Well, I can say that if I was not writing this review I would have stopped watching after 10 minutes (at most). Perhaps the most boring film I have ever seen, with about 80 percent of the 105 minutes running time (seemed like 105 hours) consisting of a French woman speaking direct-to-camera in that way that only the French can - wittering on in a virtually incomprehensible way in a very low-key voice about who knows what.

This is all a very great shame because the underlying subject of the film, the bloody battle of Okinawa at the end of WWII, is a story worth telling. Indeed the times when we broke away from Laura (Catherine Belkhodja) to see old newsreel clips and the remembrances of two aged Japanese who were there during the conflict, are the only times that there is a spark of interest.

American forces invaded Okinawa - an offshore island of Japan - to use it as a base for their final assault on Japan. In fact, of course, the atomic bomb attacks made the mission fruitless. The Japanese fought till the end with massive casualties and many civilians committed suicide rather than fall into the hands of the 'evil', or so they thought, Americans. This tragic story does get told but is submerged by Laura and her ramblings. A straightforward documentary on the battle would have been infinitely more rewarding.

I don't think I can waste any more of my time (or yours) saying anything else about this, in my view, terrible movie. The only reason I didn't give it 'nil points' is because of the documentary aspect which, once again, triggered me to search out more background information. 'Battle of Okinawa' on Wikipedia gives a comprehensive account of the invasion.



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