Review: ‘The Black Square’

Named for a Kubrickian monolith from which emerges a man with no memory, "The Black Square" is a puzzler sans purpose.

Named for a Kubrickian monolith from which emerges a man with no memory, “The Black Square” is a puzzler sans purpose. Deeply enigmatic and none too resonant, Japanese director Hiroshi Okuhara’s first movie shot in China may be about the power of art to affect life or about the lingering effects of war — or not. Those with a taste for inscrutable cinema will find plenty about which to head-scratch, while others will be put off by the film’s glacial pace and wildly overlong running time. Regional fests seeking the requisite whatsit will likely be the only takers.

Sleepy Beijing artist Zhao Ping (Chen Xixu) awakens to discover a huge black square floating in the sky. Following the square until it lands in an empty field, Zhao is startled by the sudden presence of a naked amnesiac (Hideo Nakaizumi) to whom he gives clothes and the name “Black Square.” After the stranger falls for Zhao’s sister (Dan Hong), the largely silent pic becomes even more abstract, its actors reappearing in a section set during the Sino-Japanese War. Tech credits are as sharp as the pic’s narrative is dull.

The Black Square



A Black Square Film production. Produced by Li Rui, Tomoko Okuhara. Directed, written, edited by Hiroshi Okuhara.


Camera (color, HD), Kenji Maki; music, Sangatsu; production designer, Gao Peng; visual effects, Octigraphica; sound, Zhang Yang. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (competing), Oct. 24, 2012. Running time: 144 MIN.


Hideo Nakaizumi, Dan Hong, Chen Xixu, Miki Suzuki, Wang Hongwei, Gouzi, Zhang Ciyu. (Mandarin dialogue)

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