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More Spotlights:
Summer 98:  Alphaville
Fall 98:  Femmes Fatales
Winter 99:  Black History Films
Spring 99:  The Jewish Experience
Summer 99:  Hong Kong Cinema
Fall 99:  Favorite Foreign Films
Winter 00:  Britain's Best
Spring 00:  Silent Giants
Summer 00:  Restoring the Classics
Fall 00:  French Films
Spring 01:  Alphaville's Top Ten

Fall 01:  In These Hard Times

Spotlight for Fall 2001:

In These Hard Times

ONE watch and think about in these hard times...

In writing this season's spotlight, all of the films that we here at Alphaville could think of that might bring light or understanding (or hope) to our customers in these hard times pale in comparison with just one:  The Burmese Harp, by Kon Ichikawa (1956).

A poetic trek across a pain-filled landscape, this powerful anti-war film is a classic example of Japanese director Kon Ichikawa's visual intensity and unyielding pacifism.  Set at the close of World War II, The Burmese Harp focuses on the radical shift in consciousness that drives one young Japanese soldier to give up the life he has known, abandon his comrades, and remain behind in Burma even as his unit tries desperately to steal into neutral territory.

On a mission to convince renegade mountain fighters of Japan's official surrender, the company's innocent harp-playing scout, Private Mizushima, is severely wounded.  Saved by a Buddhist priest and nursed to health in the bombed-out temple, Mizushima begins to question himself and the war of which he has he has been an active part.  Ichikawa stunningly evokes the young soldier's spiritual conversion as Mizushima, now dressed in a simple monk's robes, traverses an endless plain of corpses and begins the insurmountable task of burying Japan's war dead.

This film slowly reveals how a young man who has finally realized his purpose in life can go beyond violence and transform his world through compassionate action.  Mizushima, though silent throughout much of the film, nevertheless poses the question that all of us must now answer for ourselves, as individuals, as nations, and as a world community: "What now must WE do?"

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