Pigs and Battleships: ”I won’t be a wage slave like my dad. I want to do something cool with my life. I want better for myself, and for you too.”

 

Year:1961
Directed by Shôhei Imamura and Kirirô Urayama
Produced by Kano Ôtsuka
Written by Hisashi Yamauchi, Kazu Ôtsuka, and Gisashi Yamauchi
Cast: Hiroyuki Nagato, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Masao Mishima, Tetsurō Tamba and Shirô Ôsaka

An immature hoodlum with a nagging and well-meaning girlfriend is caught up in a criminal scheme involving pigs that will change their lives forever.

Pigs and Battleships is a gazing portrayal of the effects of American imperialism. It’s an unflattering portrayal that satirizes all of its principal players. It’s easy to produce an anti-American feature, but Pigs and Battleships isn’t some jingoistic attack. Even, the Japanese characters are depicted with little embellishment besides a few exceptions. Like looking at a pig sty, the effects of the American presence in Japan is all too muddy. Everyone in this small town regardless if they like it or not, everyone’s livelihood is connected to the American presence. Though the American sailors are little more than pleasure seekers here. The amount of influence they’re able to exert unknowingly is too disturbing. Likewise, the Japanese see the Americans as little more than tools for their benefit; it’s usually only for momentary material gain. It’s a bad relationship that corrupts both parties. It is this relationship that forms the foundation for the conflict in this narrative. This relationship has become so pervasive that most of the characters have little care for the world outside of the town. In short, this exploitative relationship is their world. The town Yokosuka here is situated near the sea, and the images of the American battleships sitting firmly in the background is an all too common reminder of the looming American influence.

Kinta the film’s main character is far from a complex character. Kinta’s desires are simple; he wants to make a better life for himself. But, the means he wants to achieve this becomes his Achilles’ heel. Kinta sees hard work and dedication working towards success as a dying relic of the past. The proof of this is Kinta’s father whose hard work and dedication did little to give him a good station in life. Kinta’s father once held a high position in the army, yet in spite of his valiant service; he’s forced to do menial labor to survive. Kinta vows not to repeat the fate of his father by striking it rich fast and easy. Which, of course, opens Kinta to a life of crime. Kinta isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. There is a certain frustration that builds from watching Kinta because he has the inability to see the obvious. Something, I have no doubt was intentional. It’s done so the audience can empathize with the annoyance of the characters trying to put Kinta on the right path. For most of the story, Kinta is always reacting to people around him, so, the ending having him take charge really captivates him.

Haruko is the most dynamic character. In many ways, Pigs and Battleships is her story rather than Kinta. Haruko serves as a beacon of hope in a morally depraved world. Haruko sits at a crossroad from being sucked into the morally depraved world of Yokosuka and making a better life for herself. Though, there are factors pushing her to enter this world. Some are Haruko’s aimless boyfriend Kinta or her mother forcing her to be a mistress of a well-to-do G.I. Haruko though fundamentally immature, she still has great insight into the world. Or in other words, Haruko is a wise person in the making. Haruko isn’t the typical beauty, yet seeing such a feisty persona in such a petite body and with such striking eyes is strangely alluring. Her capacity for being stoic and vulnerable makes her endearing. The final shots of her surrounded by other women yet going her own way speak volumes about the type of woman she has become.

The others in the cast are a reflection of the underbelly that has possessed this town. Yakuza members without any speck of humanity while a few Yakuza members try to stick to a moral code in a decaying world. The villains are a confusing bunch;the inclusion of the Chinese villain is a bit confusing. Though, this doesn’t distract from the central message of the film at all. Though most of the people in the town aren’t the most morally sound people. There are still a few people who try to lead honest lives like Kinta’s father. There is still a glimmer of hope in Yokosuka.

Pigs and Battleships is a shattering tale of the Americanization consuming Japan. The ending becomes a culmination of the ongoing satire. But, the ending also rails against the American influence without stepping out of line with its satirical overtone. Pigs and Battleships exposes the ugly truth of the American presence with a riveting and emotional story.

 

 

 

 

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