Muddy River (1981)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

Original title:  Doro no Kawa

Japan, 1981.  Kimura Productions.  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Imagine if Ozu had made his delicate concoctions with a clear-eyed view of post-war Japan and you have this equally light and devastating tale.  Nobuo is a young boy growing up in the decade following the end of World War II, his loving parents raising him in the noodle shop they run on the banks of an Osaka river.  When a small houseboat moors on their shore and turns out to be the home of a single woman and her two children, our pint-sized hero becomes best friends with the son of the new neighbours and they enjoy their afternoons getting into scrappy trouble.  The realities of their harsh lives are always on the periphery, Nobuo’s new friends uneducated and grubby while their mother survives her husband’s death as a soldier by selling her body for a living.  The situation provides a coming of age for the boy, who learns about the value of friendship and the pain of sacrifice and degradation simultaneously. Shot in dreamy black and white, the film is rich with moments both kind and cruel, featuring solid direction and terrific performances from all, especially the youngsters.

Academy Award Nomination:  Best Foreign Language Film

Toronto International Film Festival:  1982


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