crossroads film review

Pick for the Weekend: Crossroads (1928)

– Crossroads is the movie for the weekend. In this section every Saturday or Sunday Celluloid Dimension picks a movie for the weekend. The selections are preferably underrated movies or neglected movies that we think should get more attention. Have fun with these recommendations. –

Crossroads (1928) Directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa

I don’t know if it qualifies as a horror film, but this is a goddamn terrifying drama. It is the perfect marriage of two formidable aesthetic trends that emerged on the avant-garde scene after the culmination of the devastating Great War, and those are German expressionism and French impressionism. The extraordinary and harrowing Jidaigeki by Japan’s most inexplicably neglected filmmaker is everything one might expect from a 1928 silent film: immaculate visual storytelling, technical modernism and artistic sophistication. The beginning of the plot errs on the side of being too experimental and indiscriminately audacious with its formal instruments, yet what comes after that unintelligible quasi-Soviet formalism is pure cinema at its most idiosyncratically poetic. It is a bleak poetry about the vulnerability of a woman under the dangers of a chauvinistic and traditional culture, although there is no hope in the inexorable circumstances of the tragedy nor a glimmer of light in the voracious shadows that devour the asymmetrical mise-en-scene, the optical sublimity of director Teinosuke Kinugasa does enlighten our social perception. It reveals empathy for Japanese women, and a legitimate celebration of their unwavering fighting spirit.

Akiko Chihaya plays the good-natured sister of an unscrupulous man, who is blinded after fighting with his enemy over a courtesan, with whom they are both infatuated. The sister – whom the film never chooses to name, referring to her only as “sister” – cares for her brother and unjustly pays for his recklessness; her innocence, magnanimity and fragile heart fall victim to the perfidy and malice of society. The energetic camera influences the psychology of the drama, when its observation is subjective the reality looks more grotesque and the terror that invades the protagonist more palpable; it is the kind of tragedy where there is no escape or redemption, only fatality. It is a film about the identity of womanhood in Japanese society and how the customary role is an anachronism that is still entrenched in contemporary times.

*There is no version of this film that has a soundtrack made specifically for it, nor any restoration that has optimally added one. Therefore, I watched it completely silent (no pun intended). If you are interested in watching it, I recommend not to use any randomly selected music, the frame rate will thank you for it.


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