The Saga of Anatahan

“Very rarely seen, Anatahan is a masterpiece, to rank with the Dietrich films” (David Thomson). The plot is based on the celebrated account of a group of Japanese sailors found marooned on an obscure island in the Marianas: having lived in isolation from the world for several years after the end of World War II, they discover the presence of another human being, Keiko (Akemi Negishi), who becomes for them the only woman on earth. The ultimate auteur project, Anatahan is the only film over which Sternberg had absolute creative control, not only writing the script and directing the performers but operating the camera and designing the sets. He solved the problem of language with a kind of benshi narration, superimposing an English-language commentary over the Japanese dialogue. “If the material is fascinating, the treatment of it is just amazing [with] sequences of dreamlike abstraction and images of staggering beauty” (Tony Rayns, Time Out).

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