In Masaki Kobayashi’s World War II epic The Human Condition, the young hero, Kaji, is assigned to a Japanese unit in Manchuria that will soon be sent to the southern front. A compassionate man, he takes it on himself to protect Obara, an older and weaker recruit, from the taunts and punches of his fellow soldiers. Obara is the worst soldier in the company, a target of constant harassment, and after he collapses in the middle of a day-long march and rides back on a cart, disgracing the company, the rest of the men exact their punishment in the barracks that night by dressing him up as a whore and forcing him to act out a humiliating pantomime. Afterward, Obara steals a rifle and kills himself in the latrine.
I don’t know if The Human Condition was any sort of inspiration for Gustav Hasford, whose Vietnam novel The Short-Timers was adapted to the screen by Stanley Kubrick as Full Metal Jacket. But the parallels between Obara and Private Pyle, the hounded fuckup who finally snaps in the Kubrick film, are hard to ignore. See for yourself: The Human Condition, which totals nearly ten hours and screens in three parts, opens tonight at Gene Siskel Film Center; you can read my long review (and see a full schedule) here. Full Metal Jacket screens as a midnight show at Music Box on Friday and Saturday, the final program of the theater’s recent Kubrick retrospective.
Also opening this week are two strong documentaries: at Music Box, Every Little Step follows the audition process for the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line on Broadway, as 3,000 applicants are whittled down to a cast of 19, and at Facets Cinematheque, The Betrayal tells the story of a family that endured the U.S. bombing of Laos and then came to New York and wound up in a hellish Brooklyn housing project. Cliff Doerksen recommends the 2006 martial arts adventure Fatal Contact, which screens this week at Film Center. And we have new reviews of the Da Vinci Code sequel, Angels & Demons; the underground comedy Exclusively Yours, written and directed by Lumpen columnist Mike Finch; the musical drama Jazz in the Diamond District; the horse-racing documentary Lost in the Fog; the Jennifer Aniston-Steve Zahn romance Management; the Hong Kong gangland drama Mob Sister; the crime comedy Next Day Air; and Rudo y Cursi, a Mexican drama that reunites Y Tu Mama Tambien heartthrobs Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal.