It was evident until the final credits that this film was made in 1989, as all the elements of its production were made to look 1960's - the acting, the characterisations, the sets and the props all had an aesthetic from an earlier time.
The film opens to the moments prior to the dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima and how this tragic incident affects one family: a young woman, Yasuko, who lives with her aunt and uncle. Even in black and white, and using special effects that are quite primitive by modern standards but emotive and effective nonetheless, the depictions of the immediate aftermath of the bomb are quite horrific. Family members become unrecognisable to each other, others resemble zombies as they wander the streets bedraggled and in shock.
The title refers to rainfall that fell soon after the bomb, which was mixed with radioactive ash, and in which Yasuko is caught. Rumors of Yasuko's being in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing affect her marriage prospects and it is later learnt that the black rain is indeed causing sicknesses. The film is concerned not just with the physical effects of the bomb on the Japanese, but on the social and psychological damage that was wrought.
I found the film compassionate and a fascinating journey into a unique culture. While the film is primarily concerned with the pain felt by one family, the film's gentle political message is relevant today and probably for all time - wars have horrific consequences, and should not be entered into unless absolutely necessary. It is said that history repeats itself, and the current leaders of the 'Coalition of the Willing' have learned nothing. While atomic warfare has not resurfaced since 1945, other deadly after-effects have. This film is compelling viewing.
Belle toujours (
In Belle toujours (which I presume to mean "always beautiful"), Manoel de Oliveira pays homage to Luis Buñuel's Belle de jour ("beauty of the day", or "daytime prostitute"). While I haven't seen Buñuel's film, it doesn't share his surreal aesthetic except for one brief event. But nor does it have to, and I found the film an interesting exploration of characters knowing nothing of the earlier film. I enjoyed the film and look forward to seeing Buñuel's original and then revisiting de Oliveira's. I might have more to write then.