Labyrinth of Cinema review – cult Japanese director’s epic blitz of pop-culture hyperactivity -- Apr 27
Nobuhiko Ôbayashi is the Japanese film-maker who directed the cult 1977 horror Hausu, or House, and in his long and prolific career also specialised in TV ads starring American movie actors for the domestic market (satirised in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation).

Just before his death last year, at the age of 82, he completed this film, his valediction to cinema, to Japan and to life: an epic blitz of pop-culture hyperactivity: baffling, surreal, tragicomic, then simply tragic. At first, it looks as if it is going to be a sentimental lump-in-the-throat elegy to cinema-going’s golden age. But then it takes us to the heart of Japanese darkness: the second world war and the atomic bomb.

In the present day, a movie theatre in Onomichi, near Hiroshima, is playing an all-nighter of war movies and three guys in the audience, cinephile Mario (Takuro Atsuki), owlishly bespectacled Shigeru (Yoshihiko Hosoda) and yakuza tough guy Hosuke (Takahito Hosoyamada) are so entranced that they are magically transported through the screen and into the films. There they repeatedly encounter a mysterious little girl called Noriko (Rei Yoshida), a symbol of innocence and hope.

Everything but the kitchen sink is thrown into the mix: there are cameos for John Ford and Yasujiro Ozu, there are hints of Kubrick and MGM musicals. There are war-movie sequences that may have been inspired by Fred Zinnemann’s From Here to Eternity or even Richard Lester’s How I Won the War. In the 19th century, there are battles against the Chinese, let by the fierce Lt Sako, played by veteran Japanese star Tadanobu Asano. In the 20th, we see fanatical Japanese soldiers ordering thousands of civilians at Okinawa to commit suicide rather than submit to the Americans. -