JAPAN 2021

Muddy River

Japan 1981, 104 mins
Director: Kôhei Oguri

+ intro by season co-programmer Alexander Jacoby (Saturday 12 December only)

Kôhei Oguri’s debut is a deliberately nostalgic evocation of the world of classical filmmakers such as Ozu and Shimizu. Set in Osaka in 1956 and beautifully shot in monochrome by Shôhei Andô, Muddy River subtly dramatises a childhood friendship in a working-class milieu. This delicate work secured an Oscar® nomination for Best Foreign Film and propelled the career of one of the most uncompromisingly independent of modern Japanese filmmakers.

Made independently, and taken up for Japanese distribution only after a series of special previews, Muddy River is a plucky attempt to reactivate the well-known shomingeki genre (dramas of everyday people) made internationally famous by Ozu, Naruse, Gosho, Shimazu and others. Although not up to these standards, this first feature reveals a sensitive cinematic imagination and a plain narrative style which is never in danger of inflating its material.

Shooting in sharp black-and-white, Oguri economically situates his characters in a lived-in environment – the hot, crowded little restaurant and the sleazy river bank with its mysterious houseboat moored on the mud. The film’s viewpoint veers intriguingly between the children and their elders – we share the children’s secrets and games (both boys are good except for some excessively winsome smiles) and learn with the adults that Kiichi’s mother is a prostitute, who sets sail again when discovered by Nobuo (a fact not entirely clear to the boy himself).

Structured almost as a series of vignettes, some scenes (such as the children’s supper party) have a quietly effective resonance, while others (the visit to the dying first wife) are somewhat sentimentalised. Over all, hangs the shadow of an economically debilitated post-war Japan still troubled by the scars and sacrifices of the Second World War. Just as confident is Oguri’s eye for the right set-up (usually static, with the camera some distance from the action), with the cutting tempo slowly increased and more camera movement introduced in the film’s moving coda, as Nobuo rushes along streets and the river bank in pursuit of the friends now disappearing from his life. In this finale, character and setting are brought together in the film’s most complete statement of an underlying concern with experience lost and found.
John Gillett, Monthly Film Bulletin, March 1983

Director: Kôhei Oguri
Production Company: Kimura Productions
Producer: Motoyasu Kimura
Co-producer: Hiroshi Fujikura
Production Assistants: Mitsuo Yoshimura, Hiroshi Watabiki, Masanobu Yamamoto, Hiroko Horiyama
Assistant Directors: Akira Takashi, Eiichi Asada, Hiroshi Sasaki
Screenplay: Takako Shigemori
Original Novel by: Teru Miyamoto
Director of Photography: Shôhei Andô
Lighting: Tadaaki Shimada
Assistant Photographers: Kenjiro Matsukawa, Tokunori Kikumura, Satoshi Watanabe
Editor: Nobuo Ogawa
Assistant Editor: Yasushi Shimamura
Art Director: Akira Naitô
Set Designers: Shoichi Yasuda, Kazuhiko Ishida
Make-up: Gisho Okamoto
Music: Kuroudo Mori
Sound Recording: Hideo Nishizaki, Hiroyuki Hirai
English subtitles: Donald Richie, Tadashi Shishido

Nobutaka Asahara (Nobuo)
Takahiro Tamura (Shinpei)
Yumiko Fujita (Sadako)
Minoru Sakurai (Kiichi)
Makiko Shibata (Ginko)
Mariko Kaga (Kiichi’s mother)
Gannosuke Ashiya (horse-cart man)
Reiko Hatsune (tobacco-shop woman)
Keizo Kanie (policeman)
Yoshitaka Nishiyama (warehouse guard)
Taiji Tonoyama (man on festival boat)
Masako Yagi (Shinpei’s ex-wife)
Akira Matsuda
Jun Suzuki
Satoru Asao
Isamu Kojima
Takashi Minami
Remi Kitagawa
Mihoko Shimonishi
Yoko Koga
Naoki Nishikawa
Keiichi Murato
Akitsugu Moriyama
Ryu Hagakure
Shuichiro Nakano

Japan 1981
104 mins

JAPAN 2021
After Life (Wandafuru raifu)
Wed 1 Dec 18:10; Fri 10 Dec 20:40; Mon 13 Dec 20:40; Wed 29 Dec 14:20
In the Realm of the Senses (Ai no corrida)
Wed 1 Dec 20:50; Sat 11 Dec 20:45; Wed 22 Dec 18:20
Funeral Parade of Roses (Bara no sôretsu)
Thu 2 Dec 18:00 (+ pre-recorded intro by Professor Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano, Kyoto University); Tue 14 Dec 14:30; Mon 27 Dec 15:50
The Shifting Spaces of Modern Japanese Cinema
Thu 2 Dec 20:40
Woman of the Dunes (Suna no Onna)
Fri 3 Dec 18:00 (+ intro by Espen Bale, BFI National Archive); Sat 18 Dec 17:30
Tokyo Drifter (Tôkyô nagaremono)
Fri 3 Dec 20:50; Thu 23 Dec 18:30
Black Rain (Kuroi ame)
Sat 4 Dec 17:50; Tue 28 Dec 18:15
Straits of Hunger (aka A Fugitive from the Past) (Kiga kaikyô)
Sun 5 Dec 16:30; Sat 18 Dec 14:30
Woman of the Lake (Onna no mizûmi)
Mon 6 Dec 18:00; Wed 15 Dec 20:50
Silence Has No Wings (Tobenai chinmoku)
Mon 6 Dec 20:55; Wed 15 Dec 18:00
The Long Darkness (Shinobugawa)
Wed 8 Dec 20:40; Sun 19 Dec 12:40
Pale Flower (Kawaita hana)
Thu 9 Dec 18:00; Sun 19 Dec 18:20
Death By Hanging (Kôshikei)
Fri 10 Dec 17:50; Fri 17 Dec 18:00
Muddy River (Doro no kawa)
Sun 12 Dec 11:50 (+ intro by season co-programmer Alexander Jacoby); Thu 23 Dec 20:40
The Demon (Kichiku)
Sun 12 Dec 14:50 (+ intro by season co-programmer Alexander Jacoby); Sun 19 Dec 16:00
The Man Who Stole the Sun (Taiyô wo nusunda otoko)
Sun 12 Dec 18:00; Thu 16 Dec 20:10
Mon 13 Dec 18:00 (+ intro by Catherine Wheatley, King’s College London); Fri 17 Dec 20:45; Tue 28 Dec 15:10
Philosophical Screens: Tampopo
Mon 13 Dec 20:15 Blue Room
The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (Yuki Yukite, Shingun)
Sat 18 Dec 11:40; Mon 27 Dec 18:20
Moving (Ohikkoshi)
Sat 18 Dec 20:35; Wed 29 Dec 20:30
Fire Festival (Himatsuri)
Mon 20 Dec 17:50; Mon 27 Dec 13:20
Suzaku (Moe No Suzaku)
Tue 21 Dec 17:45; Thu 30 Dec 21:00
Shall We Dance? (Shall we dansu?)
Tue 21 Dec 20:30; Thu 30 Dec 17:40
Love Letter
Wed 22 Dec 20:50; Tue 28 Dec 12:10

Supported by

In partnership wtih

With special thanks to

With the kind support of:
Janus Films/The Criterion Collection, Kadokawa Corporation, Kawakita Memorial Film Institute, Kokusai Hoei Co. Ltd, Nikkatsu Corporation, Toei Co. Ltd

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
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