EIJANAIKA (Why Not?), (NEVER MIND), (WHAT THE HELL)
(director/writer: Shôhei Imamura; screenwriter: Ken Miyamoto; cinematographer: Shinsaku Himeda; editor: Keiichi Uraoka; music:Shinichirô Ikebe; cast: Kaori Momoi (Ine), Shigeru Izumiya (Genji), Ken Ogata (Furukawa), Shino Ikenami (Yoshino, blind lover of Ogata), Yohoei Koono (Tokugawa reformer), Minori Tirada (Ijuin), Shigeru Tsuyuguchi (Kinzo), Mitsuko Baishô (Oko), Ako (Oyoshi), Masao Kusakari (Itoman); Runtime: 151; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Shôhei Imamura, Shôichi Ozawa, Shigemi Sugisaki, Jiro Tomoda; Kino VideoShochiku/TCM/Criterion Collection; 1981-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)
“Too long, with too many characters and subplots to easily follow, but a compelling 19th century period Japanese history film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The noted veteran filmmaker of 50 career years in film, who was born in 1926 and died in 2006, the New Wave Japanese filmmaker Shôhei Imamura (“The Pornographers”/”Dr. Akagi”) is director of this too long, with too many characters and subplots to easily follow, but a compelling 19th century period Japanese history film about the chaotic Bakumatsu period when the Shogunate was coming to its end. It’s co-written by Ken Miyamoto. It’s the second narrative film that Imamura made after for the last eleven years making documentaries. Its unfocused story, shot in a conventional way, tells of a country’s corruption. It drifts all over the map and is not easy to follow or like, but for Imamura it shows his belief that the real Japanese people were the poor working-class.
The master filmmaker worked with the great Ozu on Tokyo Story.
E. is set on the eve of the Meiji Restoration, that began in 1867, as the violent upheaval ended Japan’s Tokugawa Shogunate, as feudal Japan modernized.
The main story tells of the peasant Genji (Shigeru Izumiya) returning to Japan after being shipwrecked and rescued by a boat that takes him to America for six-years during the 1860s
Its robust opening shows a noisy carnival atmosphere in the streets, at a time the Shoguns were in decline and the peasants were in revolt, and foreign powers have set foot on Japan.
Genji’s young attractive wife Ine (Kaori Momoi) stays in Japan and has been sold by her family into prostitution to work in the carnival peep show. After 6 years Genji is allowed to return to Japan and discovers Ine in the underworld city of East Ryogoku and the mistress of the boss (Shigeru Tsuyuguchi). Genji is still strangely drawn to her and stays in that area. When strife spreads throughout the city, the people begin to riot, shouting “Eijanaika!” (“Why not?!!” or “What the hell!”) as they loot the wealthy merchants. Troops advance on the rioting mob, with Genji, now an agitator, working for (Ken Ogata) from the Satsuma clan, stirring-up the masses to riot.
It rewards us for sitting through such a messy but colorfully filmed slog with a lively and riotous third act. Though the movie about romance, corruption, anarchy, chaos, revolution and class-warfare couldn’t be more chaotic or bewildering (for me, one of the master’s films I never fell in love with), it still has its striking moments Imamura shows us how unique and skilled he is as a daring filmmaker.
REVIEWED ON 6/25/2022 GRADE: B-