Nagisa Oshima

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Donald Richie

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A short while ago a young Korean student murdered and raped two Japanese girls. Director Oshima has returned to the case [in Koshikei (Death by Hanging)] and questioned not the guilt of the student but the justification of capital punishment and the whole problem of discrimination against the Koreans in Japan. He does not do so directly, however. Instead, he has chosen a Brechtian form. The young Korean, though hanged, refuses to die and so the police officers must act out his crime in order to convince him of his guilt. In so doing one of the officers inadvertently murders a girl. The ironies of the picture multiply—law is impossible without crime, for example—and the film ends with the unassailable logic of the young Korean's observation upon being warmly assured that it is indeed very bad to kill, that "then it is bad to kill me." The second half of Koshikei is somewhat loose and more than a little indulgent, but the general structure and the first half are remarkably incisive.

Donald Richie, "'Koshikei' ('Death by Hanging')," in International Film Guide 1969, edited by Peter Cowie (copyright © 1968 by The Tantivy Press), Tantivy Press, 1969, p. 113.

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