Fans of the 1977 Japanese comedy horror film “House” (or “Hausu”) may recognize the name of director Nobuhiko Obayashi. In his first feature for a major Japanese studio, he used amateur actors in a surreal film about a girl named Gorgeous who invites five friends along on a summer trip to the supernaturally animated home of her aunt.
The once experimental filmmaker won numerous awards over the years, and his final film, “Labyrinth of Cinema,” was released in Japan in 2019. (He died of cancer last year.) It has its own brand of surrealism, but “Labyrinth” is nothing like “House.” Though there’s a schoolgirl at the center of it, the film unfolds in a dazzling array of constantly changing settings, revisiting decades of popular Japanese war movies, from shogun battles to the World Wars.
The film is set in present day Onomichi, where Obayashi grew up. It’s not far from Hiroshima, which looms large in the scheme of “Labyrinth.” The town’s movie theater, Setouchi Kinema, is closing for good following a final all-night movie marathon of Japanese war films.
Read Will Coviello's full review for Gambit.