A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Vengeance Is Mine (Shohei Imamura, 1979)

Mayumi Ogawa and Ken Ogata in Vengeance Is Mine
Iwao Enokizu: Ken Ogata
Shizuo Enokizu: Rentaro Mikuni
Kazuko Enokizu: Mitsuko Baisho
Haru Asano: Mayumi Ogawa
Hisano Asano: Nijiko Kiyokawa
Kayo Enokizu: Chocho Miyako
Tanejiro Shibata: Taiji Tonoyama
Daihachi Baba: Goro Tarumi
Kawashima: Yoshi Kato
Prostitute: Toshie Negishi

Director: Shohei Imamura
Screenplay: Masaru Baba
Based on a novel by Ryuzo Saki
Cinematography: Shinsaku Himeda
Production design: Akiyoshi Satani
Film editing: Keiichi Uraoka
Music: Shinichiro Ikebe

It might have been called Vengeance Without a Cause for all Shohei Imamura's film tells us about what drove Iwao Enokizu, a character based on the real-life con man and serial killer Akira Nishiguchi, to his criminal excesses. We are left to see them as the product of societal decay in postwar Japan, or perhaps as something in the air -- as the strikingly fantastic end of the film seems to suggest. It's a film with all the repellent fascination of a rattlesnake, and Imamura is intent on holding the viewer's gaze on the crimes. Nothing escapes Imamura's scathing treatment: not motherhood, not the police, not religion, and certainly not Japan's prewar history, which is touched on in a scene that a lesser filmmaker might have used as a source for Enokizu's disorder: His father is forced to submit to an imperial soldier as the boy Iwao looks on in disgust. Ken Ogata is attractively repellent as the adult Enokizu, and Rentaro Mikuni portrays the father as a man who hides his moral cowardice behind a façade of devout Catholicism. There are daring performances by Mitsuko Baisho as Iwao's wife, erotically fascinated by her husband's father, by Mayumi Ogawa as the manager of a sleazy inn who gets fatally ensnared by Enokizu, and by Nijiko Kiyokawa as her grasping, voyeuristic mother. It's part crime film and part horror movie.

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