Film Scouts Reviews

"Kanzo sensei"

by David Sterritt

"Kanzo Sensei" is the new comedy-drama from Japanese filmmaker Shohei Imamura, who won a shared Palme d'Or for "The Eel" last year. The hero is a feisty physician who's determined to halt the hepatitis epidemic plaguing his country as World War II winds toward its explosive close; the motley crew helping him includes a drug-dependent doctor, a former hooker, and a Dutch soldier fresh from torture sessions at the hands of his captors. A sort of "Dr. Akagi's Magic Bullet," the film has a fair amount of energy and inventiveness, but it falls far short of major Imamura works like "Vengeance Is Mine" and "The Ballad of Narayama," which are themselves more flawed by obviousness and overstatement than Imamura enthusiasts would have us believe. "The Eel" was more fun but similarly insubstantial, leading me to conclude that Imamura's late phase will be marked by dark whimsy rather than real profundity.

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