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Review of ‘Onoda, 10,000 nights in the jungle’, the latest indie war gem

The film, winner of a César for Best Original Screenplay, was screened at the Cannes and Seville Festivals.

At a time like the present, it can be considered frivolous to claim the benefits of war cinema, but the truth is that no other film genre has been able to reflect, verbi gratia, a) the cruelty inherent in the human condition, and b) the individual’s struggle against a reality as adverse and absurd as the very essence of life experience. Thus, the magical images of Captain Willard in search of Colonel Kurtz through the landscapes of Cambodia remain indelible, thanks to the most inspired and poetic Coppola, such as the convincing exercises in bitter denunciation carried out by Oliver Stone in his Vietnam trilogy, and before , in the fundamental savior (1986). If we add to this other peaks of the seventh art, essential within Cimino’s filmography (The hunter, 1978), Kubrick (The metal jacket, 1987)Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, 1998) and Mendez (1917, 2019), We can conclude that two world wars and innumerable conflicts around the globe have put on the table the cruelty to which the human being is capable of reaching (most of the time, for money), giving rise to an innumerable variety of community tragedies and personal, but they have also served the cinema (let no one understand this as a kind of compensation, ridiculous in any case) for many of its most beautiful, horrible and amazing film moments, demonstrating once again that, in terms of art, darkness it ends up being the best conduit to circulate light, just as sulfur is the most reliable seasoning for genius.

In a similar way to the way its director, Arthur Harari, almost unknown in these latitudes, paid homage to the noir genre in his previous diamond noir (2016), here it is proposed to serve as a compendium and tribute to the most epidermal war cinema, so often concomitant with the most stark and organic adventure genre. For this, Harari resorts to an unusual anecdote: the experience of Lieutenant Onoda, stationed in 1944 on the island of Lubang (Philippines), during World War II, and who did not surrender until 1974, almost thirty years after the Japanese defeat. In Harari’s film, so relevant is the than As the as, and the frontal proposal of its head, immersive, physical and emotional, is as important as the gallery of resources and winks that go through an adventure that can and should be understood with a very complete summa of the war genre, not only American, almost an exhaustive panoramic tour and, necessarily, suffered (172 minutes) for its styles, textures and commonplaces. Far from being a postmodern re-enacting for culturetas with the spirit of a colossal fairground attraction, Onoda delves into the purity of the narrative of Dafoe, Hemingway or Malraux to transport us, once again, to familiar pleasures: the sense of group of Howard Hawks, the beauty of the staging of King Vidor, the psychological depth of Anthony Mann, almost all of John Ford (his essential Chivalry Trilogy, but also the representation of the myth in westerns like The man who shot Liberty Valance either passion of the strong), the crudeness of Imamura or Oshima (remember the seminal Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence), the poetry of Kurosawa or Mizoguchi (those baths on Philippine beaches with the red sun in the background, the importance of songs and rain), the eye for detail of Sam Fuller (that recurring culinary obsession), but above all all the muddy physicality of John Boorman (of Hell in the Pacific a Beyond Rangoon, Without forget the emerald forest, even the dangerous forests of Defending), or the William Friedkin of Cursed Cargo, Counter Terrorist Group either The prey, reaching heights that go far beyond the narrative and that approach the ethnographic and, of course, the existentialist. And his accurate approach to the story of the shipwrecked soldier is also surprisingly Wilderian (I think of the sarcastic tone of traitor in hell which ends up unexpectedly crossing paths with The great carnival but also in the Lindbergh who talked to the fly in the lonely hero, like later Tom Hanks with a smiling ball), underlining the parallelism between heroism and fatality and joining, incidentally, this odyssey with the purely satirical spirit of What did you do in the War, Dad? (Edwards, 1966)Oh, what a beautiful war! (Attenborough, 1969) or even Tropic Thunder, a very bitchy war! (Stiller, 2008) and Target: Bin Laden (Larry Charles, 2016). At the end of its almost three hours of footage, one wonders if Harari’s film, with such an ostentatious title, will remain a masterpiece or simply a virtuoso, exotic and erudite exercise in style. What is certain is that it overflows, like a found chest, cinema with capital letters on each of its edges.

For shrewd adventurers who want to dig deep into the nooks and crannies of history.

The best: the audacity of its immersive proposal to the viscera.

The worst: its long first hour, which can confuse the greatness of its second half.


Direction: Arthur Harari Distribution: Endō Yūya, Tsuda Kanji, Nakano Taiga, Matsuura Yūya, Chiba Tetsuya, Katō Shinsuke Toriginal title: Onoda, 10,000 nights in the jungle Country: France, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Cambodia Year: 2021 Release date: 6–5-2022 Gender: Drama Film script: Arthur Harari, Vincent Poymiro Duration: 165 minutes

Synopsis: Late 1944. Japan is losing the war. By order of the mysterious commander Taniguchi, the young Hirō Onoda is sent to an island in the Philippines just before the American landing. The few soldiers that he drags into the jungle will soon discover the unknown doctrine that will bind them to this man: the secret war. For the Empire, the war is about to end. For Onoda, the war will end 10,000 nights later.

Source: Fotogramas

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