Plot: Kanikosen is a giant crab cannery boat crisscrossing the Sea of Okhotsk in search of greater and greater quantities of shellfish. The ship is equipped with a cannery facility and workers who forced to labor under pitiful conditions at minimum wages under the stern pressure of Asakawa-san, the factory superintendent who even does not treat them as human beings. Sometime in the past they were tempted by suggestive leaflets promising a very good salary. In the realty it turned out to be a slave labour, without any possibility to get out. The only way out they see is to commit suicide to reincarnate in a good rich family. However there is a a man who refuses to just lament the fate, and try to take things into their own hands and begin to live here and now.
Adapted for the screen from Takiji Kobayashi's 1929 classic of proletarian literature, Kanikosen is the story of a workers' strike aboard a cannery ship on the northern Sea of Japan. In 2008, Kanikosen awoke from decades of canonical slumber, to become an unexpected best-seller, with Japanese sales rocketing from a long-standing average of 5,000, to over 500,000 copies in a single year, not including figures for its four different manga adaptations.
The movie was shown at film festivals in Pusan (October, 2009), Berlinale (February, 2010), Hong Kong (March, 2010)
«Sabu makes brilliant use of his source material, retaining the agitprop elements of the novel to deliver a truly exhilarating and rousing film. “Kanikosen” is much more structurally sound than most of his other films; as inventive as many of his original scenarios are, they have a tendency to run out of steam at a certain point and become repetitious.»
«For Kobayashi, one of the primary aims of his literary art was to convey a more profound understanding of this social structure - not the what, but the why of it - beyond mystifications such as "the nation" or "the people". What Sabu's adaptation of Kanikosen implicitly asks us to think about, then, is the manner and mode in which a film about political conflict can speak to a depoliticized audience, and the role it plays in expanding our sense of "the art of the possible".»
«In contrast to his usual black comedies, Sabu here essays static, claustrophobic setpieces with a deliberately dated frame of reference, complete with utopian vision of Russian egalitarianism. Validating the novel's message yet maintaining an absurdist distance from it, "Kanikosen" plays more as exercise than drama, with limited non-Nipponese appeal.»
«But amid the drudgery of assembly-line crab-canning, and even with occasional outbursts of paper-thin proletarian solidarity, none of these bizarre tonal shifts manages to liven the film up much. For one thing, despite occasional touches of digital panache, expressive lighting, and odd camera angles, the film is rather lacking in visual inventiveness. »
«Polarized to the point of caricature but without the impassioned execution of agitprop, and evading correlation between the economic expansion of an Industrial Revolution created in the midst of increasing totalitarianism with the realities of an Asian tiger-fueled new global economy, Kanikosen ultimately struggles to offer more than well crafted imagery, paradoxically creating an estranged and complacent call to arms.»
«Imagine "Titanic" only with scenes in the steerage. That's the bleak and claustrophobic experience "Kanikosen" offers to make sense of the oppression and inevitable uprising of workers on a crab cannery ship in Imperialist Japan. ... Think remake of "Mutiny on the Bounty" using "Dogville" as an aesthetic blueprint. »
«In Kanikosen, Sabu is working in a post-modern, almost Brechtian, tone that's far removed from the bonkers, high-octane kinetics of his earlier films. To a degree marrying the two aesthetics serves him well. The grandiosity of the crew's final assault on their exploiters, the mass suicide gone awry and the careful shot compositions are instances where the right amount of absurdity draws attention to the underlying angry message and highlight the delicate balance Sabu has managed to strike between stagy and silly.»
«Sabu: The first film from the 1950s is a very political film and very close to the original novel, whereas I wanted to make a film closer to daily life. I also wanted to make a film that would attract many people to come to the cinema, so it had to be a bit more entertaining. I wanted to reach out to people and in that sense make it more ordinary and less political.»
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