Sunday, June 23, 1991

Akira Kurosawa's Rhapsody in August

Akira Kurosawa's Rhapsody in August
Bevin Chu
June 22, 1991

Calendar Letters
Los Angeles Times
Times Mirror Square
Los Angeles CA 90053

Dear Editor:

Director Akira Kurosawa (Calendar June 23, Conversation with Gabriel Garcia Marquez) in referring to "Rhapsody in August," set in Nagasaki, proclaimed:

"I have not filmed shockingly realistic scenes which would prove tobe unbearable... I remember the day... clearly, and evennow I still can't believe that it could have happened inthe real world. But the worst part of it is that the Japanese people have cast it into oblivion."

Ironically, his words indicting America for using the atomic bomb against Japan could easily refer to a well-documented but seldom mentioned act of genocide committed by the Japanese Army against China. Historian Paul Johnson writes in "Modern Times, The World from the Twenties to the Eighties":

"The Chinese capital, Nanking, fell in December 1937. For four weeks the streets of the city were given over to one of the largest-scale massacres in history. Men, women and children, said an eyewitness, 'were hunted like rabbits. Everyone seen to move was shot.' Some 20,000 male Chinese civilians of military age were marched out into the countryside and killed by bayoneting and machineguns, foreshadowing the Soviet massacres of the Poles in 1941 at Katyn and elsewhere. The killings went on until 6 Feb, 1938, and by then between 200,000 to 300,000 Chinese were dead. Even an official Nazi embassy report described the scenes as 'the work of bestial machinery'. The atrocities got wide coverage in world newspapers. The Emperor and the civilians in the cabinet claimed later that they knew nothing of these events until after the war."

Akira Kurosawa had the chutzpah to declare:

"at the very least, the country that dropped the bomb should apologize to the Japanese people. Until that happens this drama will not be over."

As a Chinese-American born in Nanking permit me to respond:

"At the very least, the country that massacred a quarter of a million civilians should apologize to the Chinese people."

Filmmaker Kurosawa could launch this enterprise by producing and directing a trilogy acknowledging Japan's culpability in World War II, starting with "Nanking," followed by "Pearl Harbor" and concluding with "Bataan." Were he to do so, I for one would not object to the inclusion of "shockingly realistic scenes which would prove to be unbearable."

Yours Truly,

Bevin Chu
Santa Monica, CA