Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Alone Across the Pacific

Excuse my absence, but it's been a heavy, heavy month. My dad died, so I've been on the other side of the world attending his funeral.

Immediately following his death, I confronted the reality that I will never wake up again with a dad. It's sobering and harsh.

The death of a friend preceded my dad's passing, and the death of another friend's brother has compounded the generally brutal tone of September.

I had a birthday, too, but the deaths outweighed the births this year.

After the Australian funeral, which was well attended by over a hundred people who remembered dad fondly, I headed to a New Zealand island to shoot a doco and, as it's turning out, another dramatic feature. That makes it four features I need to wrap up editing on in the next six months. Nice to be busy, but a little shameful to get so far behind in post.

Although I'd seen it once before, re-watching Kon Ichikawa's perfectly measured Alone Across the Pacific (Nikkatsu; 1963) seemed like the appropriate gesture on another windy night on the island.

Simple story. A young man, Kenichi Horie (Yujiro Ishihara), dreams of sailing a small yacht to San Francisco from Osaka. His family opposes the journey because they care about his safety.

I really liked the way Ichikawa handled the man's relationship with his father. It felt real. Although Ishihara works for his dad in a small engineering company, it's clear that the job is a means to an end. That end is building a yacht for his intended trip. The old man attempts on several occasions to convince Kenichi to abandon his plans, but Kenichi is stubborn in his determination. What's conveyed so beautifully by Ichikawa is the older man's grudging respect for his son, and acknowledgment that such endeavors are a natural for a boy proceeding forward to manhood. Kenichi's conversations with his mother about the trip are heartbreaking, focusing on the woman's fear of losing her only son.

As one would expect, the young and relatively inexperienced sailor faces physical and mental hardships at sea, and finds himself revisiting the concerns of his parents. Ichikawa stresses the details of a long sea voyage with a compelling sequence in which Kenichi's supplies are dutifully listed with enormous cinematic flair. The recreations of the long sea voyage are spectacular and emphasize the terrible loneliness.

Faced with the challenge of confining his hero to one location, Ichikawa's decision to break up the trip with fascinating scenes of family opposition to it pays off.

In the period in which Kenichi successfully crossed the pacific, Japanese were banned from such nautical risks as this.

The DVD, from the UK's Masters of Cinema, is a welcome addition to the  available work of one of Japan's greatest directors. Fingers crossed that his Princess of the Moon will see release also.


  1. jervaise brooke hamsterSeptember 21, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    Sorry to hear about your loss my old mate.

  2. jervaise brooke hamsterSeptember 21, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    You sound like you`re in need of a good laugh my old mucker, to accomplish this why not read the 6 hilarious com-girl-ts that i left over on Soiled Sinema's reveiw of "Mosley", they`re a scream.

  3. Let me pay my respects and say I'm sorry for your loss Phantom! I can feel your pain. Happy be-lated birthday anyway and I hope your feel better as time passes.
    What a trip that would be from SF to Osaka in a small boat! What would it be like being isolated for so long on a trip like that even if things went well. Wow! Looks like an interesting read. Take care Phantom! Thinking of you! ♥

  4. Sometimes it seems that life has a brutal tendency to kick you when you're already down.
    My condolences!
    And best wishes with all of your film endeavors!

    Take care.

  5. I'm very sorry to hear about your dad and friend, M.

  6. So sorry about the loss of your dad Phantom, and your friend too. Brutal is the right word.

  7. jbh/Bekkie/JackJ -- thank you. Your kind comments are much appreciated.

  8. My sincerest condolences to you, Phantom. I'm glad you have work to keep you occupied and hope the filmmaking process helps to ease your mind. Thanks for taking the time to offer us your thoughts on this film.

  9. jervaise brooke hamsterSeptember 22, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Phantom, i realised that Kevin Smith was a worthless pile of garbage a long time ago as well.

  10. Truly sorry to hear about the loss of your Father and friend, Phantom.

    Thanks for the movie rec as well. I'm a sucker for any type of solo voyage/adventure. Looking forward to this one.

  11. My condolences, Phantom. Since you think so much in film, Might I recOmmend 'Io non ho Paura' or 'I'm not Scared', an absolutely beautiful Italian thriller. The cinematography is stunning and metaphorical,'and the theme is about boys and fathers. The final scene before the credits is a stunner.

    I do wish there could be a definitive film about adult men and their dads that isn't about resentment and abandonment. Well, maybe there is but I have yet to see it.

    Take care,

  12. Mac -- Thank you for your kind thoughts. Re: I'M NOT SCARED, I like this film very much. Yes, it is a fine study of father-son dynamics.

  13. jervaise brooke hamsterSeptember 23, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    Phantom, Pat Condell (in the Youtube video "Britain is a riot") said he thought that anyone convicted of taking part in the recent riots should have their house demolished, well i was thinking of another group of British idiots who should be punished in the same way, the 6 million morons who`ve been stupid enough to pay an average of $10 each to see "The Inbetweeners Movie", imagine paying $10 to see a film that amounts to nothing more than a 1971 episode of "The Liver Birds" ! ! !, thats what 6 million British tossers have done, its difficult for me to comprehend or understand how such a high number of people have been taken in and conned by such a pile of completely unwatchable British made dog-shit. How can people be so weak-minded and foolish ? its so fucking bizarre.

  14. You have my condolences regarding your father's death. My father died nearly ten years ago when I was 15 and thinking about that time can still bring me to tears. As usual, thanks for the film review and recommendation! Also, I think we might have the same birthday, the year being different, of course. I celebrated mine on the 18th! Maybe September 18th-ers like all sorts of interesting and weird movies...

  15. Jesse -- Losing your father at 15 must have been extremely difficult for you. No wonder it brings tears to your eyes. Fathers are most important (unless they're abusive, of course). We ALMOST have the same birthday. I'm on the 17th. Perhaps there is something about us September people and an adventurous movie spirit. Take care!

  16. Milkman/Schlockomaniac/Bekkie/Toxaemia -- Thank you so much for your kind and generous thoughts. Much appreciated. Excuse the late reply, please.

  17. Sorry to read this P.
    My condolences on your loss.