Review of Tezuka’s Barbara (2019)

Moving picture, 100 minutes

Seen in 2020.

A successful bourgeois novelist falls for a mysterious Verlaine-quoting drifter with a drinking problem.

A relatively good, subdued example of using the visual language of manga in live action. Alas, the film is an incongruous aesthetic failure, despite a number of good scenes. I got the impression Tezuka Makoto couldn’t decide whether to go for Faust (Mnemosyne’s contract in blood, Barbara in a six-pointed Star-of-David pentagram), miscellaneous horror (voodoo dolls, cannibalism), titillation (tits, slaps, necrophilia), M. Night Shyamalan (when Yōsuke is talking to Barbara they are always alone), Tzvetan Todorov (ontologically dubious transformations), quasi-Buddhist ukiyō moralism (Yōsuke falling from virtuous strictures into notably fluid pleasures, the decadence that killed Verlaine), Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann (supposedly Tezuka Osamu’s inspiration), an allegory about art in general, or simply a run-of-the-mill drama about an artist’s mid-life crisis with an irreverent young lover like Rimbaud. Picking a purpose, and cutting a few minutes irrelevant to it, would have made a film worth watching.

moving picture Japanese production fiction