Picks and Pans Review: Macarthur's Children

updated 06/03/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/03/1985 01:00AM

After World War II, Japan's culture, as well as its territory, was occupied by American troops commanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The emotion and turmoil of that experience provide the background to this sometimes stunning, sometimes puzzling, film directed by Masahiro (The Demon Pond) Shinoda. It focuses on three children in early adolescence. All are students of a teacher whose husband returns from the war having lost a leg. Shinoda has an eye for screen landscapes worthy of Fellini; most of his scenes are beautifully framed. The motivations behind the action are often bizarre, at least to a Westerner, and sometimes the characters' reactions seem unaccountable. Perhaps no subtitle can explicate cultural differences. There is also a too predictable showdown baseball game between the children's school and a contingent of U.S. soldiers. But the film does have its penetrating moments, partly because of the expressive performances by the youngsters, Takaya Yamauchi, Yoshiyuki Omori and Shiori Sakura and by the actress playing the teacher, Masako Natsume. Shinoda succeeds to some extent just by raising the question of how the Japanese absorbed the profound shock of the MacArthur period. One day they were fighting a vicious war against the U.S.; the next day they were in effect America's protégés. Where, indeed, did all of the animosity go? (In Japanese with English subtitles; PG)

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