Akira, the bebop jazz-loving thief again played by Kawachi Tamio in “The Warped Ones,” returned for “Black Sun” (Kuroi taiyô , 1964), which is arguably even loopier than “The Warped Ones,” though Akira is more sympathetic, less psychotic (butis still far from acting or thinking normally). Akira lives in a Catholic church slated for demolition with jazz records and photos of jazz musicians. He believes that he loves black people, though he has never actually met a black person.
Gil, (Chico Roland), a US soldier (a sergeant no less) lumbers into Akira’s squat, being accused of having shot a white US soldier. He is wounded (leg) and desperate. He speaks no Japanese and Akira speaks no English, and Gil’s brutality disenchants Akira from his fantasies about African Americans, though eventually he helps Gil escape (Gil in grotesque whiteface makeup, Akira in blackface that is not quite as garish), though forcing him to sing in the jazz club. The ending is particularly surreal.
I was restive (bored) while watching “Black Sun” (1964), despite the soundtrack (by the Max Roach Quartet; at the start Akira buys their record of “Black Sun”) and don’t think Chico Roland could act, even the simplistic part in which he was cast. Yet, I remember images from the movie of pollution, nuclear reactors, rooftops, and weather balloons. Kawachi’s second Akira has a range of emotions and greater psychological plausibility than his first one did. (Some have opined that te movie is a parody of the earnest 1958 “Defiant Ones” that had escaped convicts Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis chained together through a desperate flight, but I am skeptical that Kurahara had a sense of humor. “Travesty” maybe, instead of “parody”?)
The movie is part of the Criterion Weird World of Kurahara set.
©2016, Stephen O. Murray