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Africa Story (1980) Ending

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Uploaded on Apr 10, 2011

Directed by: Susumu Hani
Script: Shuji Terayama

This strange little movie is the product of what may be the most unlikely collaboration in the history of Japanese cinema. That's Japanese New Wave pioneer turned nature documentarian Susumu Hani as director, along with BBC wildlife photographer Simon Trevor as co-director and DOP. The original story is provided by Shuji Terayama, which makes this the only film besides Nanami, Inferno of First Love where Terayama and Hani collaborated. Terayama's story is turned into a screenplay by none other than Shintaro Tsuji, the founder of the Sanrio corporation. Finally, the film stars Jimmy Stewart, in his final appearance in a live-action feature. What the fuck?

Susumu Hani's career began with documentaries about youth and shifted into pseudo-documentary dramas, climaxing with Nanami, one of the greatest masterpieces of Japanese film. Although his work proves he had a profound understanding of human psychology, Hani was becoming increasingly disillusioned with humanity, which may explain why he abandoned human subjects in favor of making nature documentaries for NHK. It's best to keep that in mind while watching this film, because at this late stage in his career, Hani seems to be completely uninterested in human drama. Instead of focusing on developing the characters, Hani chooses to simply incorporate more nature footage than the story will allow. The very theme of the movie leans pretty heavily towards the simple "nature is perfect, humans are evil" side of the spectrum. Hani was also certainly limited by the intended family audience of the movie, which would prohibit delving into the potential psycho-sexual aspects of the story that might have been developed if Hani and Terayama had produced the film independently 10-15 years earlier. But for all of these reasons, the end result makes for a rather surreal viewing experience, which is compounded by the occasional stylistic flourish that is to be expected from a former New Wave director. Not to mention the ultra-cheesy music and the awkward, stilted acting that seems to be inevitable whenever there is a language barrier between the actors and director. Although she's certainly easy on the eyes, the lead actress is bad at acting and she speaks with a strange voice that makes me think that English is not her first language, or that she's deaf, or maybe both. By no means is this a great or even good film, but it's worth watching simply for the novelty factor, and of course for the gorgeous cinematography. A Tale of Africa is beautiful to look at, and there are certainly no other movies quite like it, but I'll never understand what Shintaro Tsuji was thinking when he decided it would be a good idea to involve countercultural icons like Shuji Terayama and Susumu Hani in the production of a children's movie. Suddenly, Hello Kitty vibrators don't seem so surprising.

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