Hiroshi Okuhara’s avant-garde feature Kuroi Shikaku originally screened at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2012 but it has taken until now to get its theatrical release in Japan.
This is one of those films I have deeply divided feelings about, which means it’s interesting enough to puzzle over. It begins in experimental fashion: a black cube appears over a field in China and a naked man (Hideo Nakaizumi) emerges. He appears to have no memory, no past and no language.
Wandering around, he’s soon taken in by Zhao Ping (Chen Xixu), an artist, and his Chinese-speaking Japanese girlfriend, Hana (Miki Suzuki). The man slowly adapts to life in the artist’s neighborhood of Song Zhuang in Beijing and develops an improbable relationship with Zhao’s sister, Lihua (Dan Hong).
This story alone would be curious enough, but a love story develops set during the Japanese invasion of China in the 1940s. Though this occupation was typified by its brutality, the tale here depicts a Japanese doctor in the countryside caring for a Chinese farmer who starts a relationship with the daughter.
This neo-nationalist re-imagining of history is annoying, but the film has some odd compelling elements to it. Even at well over two hours in length, this is a watchable piece for those who want to veer away from standard narrative fare.
English title: The Black Square (144 min)