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DEATH BY HANGING (KOSHIKEI)(director/writer: Nagisa Oshima; screenwriters: Michinori Fukao/ Mamoru Sasaki/Tsutomu Tamura; cinematographer: Yasuhiro Yoshioka; editor: Sucko Shiraishi; music: Hikaru Hayashi; cast: Kei Sato (Execution Chief), Fumio Watananbee (Education Officer), Toshiro Ishida (Chaplain), Masao Adachi; (Security Officer), Mutsuhro Toura (Doctor), Akiko Koyama (Korean Girl), Do-yun Yu (Korean Convict, Ri Chin’u), Nagisa Oshima (Narrator); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Yakuji Yamaguchi /Masayuki Nakajima/ Nagisa Oshima; New Yorker Films; 1968-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)
It’s brilliantly directed and co-written by Nagisa Oshima.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A procedural moral dilemma social conscience film presented in the style of a Brechtian black comedy, shot in black-and-white, that’s based on a sad true tale. It’s brilliantly directed and co-written by Nagisa Oshima(“Violence at Noon”/”Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence“/”Kyoto, My Mother’s Place “), with European sensibilities. The other writers are Michinori Fukao, Mamoru Sasaki and Tsutomu Tamura, who argue if the death penalty is a valid punishment–landing clearly on the anti-capital punishment side. Oshima is the off-screen narrator.

A youngJapanese-born Korean student (Do-yun Yu) raped and killed two girls in 1958 and was then hanged in 1963 when he reached maturity. But it’s a botched hanging and the convicted man survives in a state of memory loss. In the next two hours the authorities try to figure out if they should try to hang him again, while the condemned man refuses to accept responsibility for his crime even after his brutality is re-enacted. Oshima draws out some comical and some serious arguments, and in a Bunuel way offers a biting satire on Japanese society’s institutionalized hatred of the Korean community.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”