Kon Ichikawa Tom Milne - Essay

Tom Milne

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Kon Ichikawa's Alone On the Pacific starts out from what might be the heroic story of a Japanese boy's solo crossing of the Pacific in a small yacht, but as Ichikawa tells it, what emerges is not so much the heroism as the boy's pleasure in getting away from parents, friends, and the trappings of civilisation….

Ichikawa uses his flashbacks beautifully to point his theme. Typical is the one in which the boy quarrels with his father (who wants him to go to university), and storms angrily out of the house; Ichikawa cuts to a tranquil long shot of the yacht becalmed in a sunny sea, before returning to the action on the yacht itself. At the same time, his cunning balance between comedy and drama makes the same point. Where most directors might have tended to establish the comedy first, just to make sure, before getting to the serious stuff (almost certainly falling into false heroics as a result), Ichikawa keeps his comedy mostly for the second half. (p. 10)

Unlike Ichikawa's other studies in obsession, in which one feels that the hero is progressing towards self-realisation at the centre of his obsession—the piles of unburied war dead in The Burmese Harp, the burning of the temple in Conflagration, the last refuge of cannibalism in Fires On the Plain—here one feels that the boy's progress is away from the San Francisco he so ardently desires to reach. For San Francisco, like Osaka, is a glare of headlights and traffic and hurrying people, and he doesn't even bother to look when he gets there. Even when he eventually wakens and has time to look around, Ichikawa somehow manages to suggest, it will still mean nothing to him compared with the pleasure of running before the wind on a blue sea, alone on the Pacific. (p. 11)

Tom Milne, "Inside and Outside," in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1965 by The British Film Institute), Vol. 34, No. 1, Winter, 1964–65, pp. 9-11.∗