Yukiyukite Shingun (The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On). 1987. Japan. Directed and photographed by Kazuo Hara. Developed by Shohei Imamura. In Japanese; English subtitles. 122 min.
Truly one of the most “alarming and significantly lunatic” documentaries ever made (as described by Vincent Canby in The New York Times), Kazuo Hara’s notorious film takes as its unhinged subject a veteran of the Imperial Japanese Army, 62-year-old Kenzo Okuzaki, who served nearly 14 years in prison for his outlandish plots to overthrow Emperor Hirohito and assassinate a former Prime Minister. Unrelenting in his pursuits of truth and divine retribution, Okuzaki uses Hara’s camera—and his own fists—to force his former superior officers into confessing to committing atrocities on their own soldiers in New Guinea in 1945, three weeks after Japan’s surrender. Errol Morris recalls, “I first saw The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On at the San Francisco Film Festival. Werner Herzog and I were sitting together. We couldn’t believe it. Here was one of the weirdest, most dramatic stories ever. And the movie itself? What can I say? It’s on my list of the 10 best movies ever. You have all these layers: the underlying historical reality, the obsessed and crazed Mr. Okuzaki pursuing that historical reality despite all odds, and the obsessed and quite possibly crazed filmmaker pursuing Mr. Okuzaki.”