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

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Endless Desire (Shohei Imamura, 1958)

Hiroyuki Nagato and Misako Watanabe in Endless Desire
Satoru: Hiroyuki Nagato
Shima Hashimoto: Misako Watanabe
Onuma: Taiji Tonoyama
Ryochi: Shoichi Ozawa
Ryuko: Hitome Nozoe
Yakuza: Takeshi Kato

Director: Shohei Imamura
Screenplay: Shohei Imamura, Hisashi Yamanouchi
Based on a novel by Shinji Fujiwara
Cinematography: Shinsaku Himeda
Production design: Kazu Otsuka
Film editing: Mutsuo Tanji
Music: Toshiro Mayuzumi

Commenting on lesser-known films, even though they've been made available on Filmstruck by the Criterion Collection, can be a problem. The IMDb listing for Endless Desire is curiously incomplete, lacking some cast names and identification of which roles some actors are playing, and there's little commentary available online to help refresh my memory of some plot details and to provide background information on the film. Which is a pity, because Endless Desire is an involving black comedy, that a few commentators have likened to Alexander Mackendrick's The Ladykillers (1955) and Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992). It's less genially whimsical than the former and less explicitly bloody than the latter, but it holds its own in their company. The setup is this: Ten years after the surrender of Japan, a small group of former soldiers gather as planned to try to relocate a barrel full of morphine that was buried when the war ended. They expect to meet their former lieutenant, but discover that he's dead and that a woman, Shima Hashimoto, who says she is his sister, plans to help them recover the stash. In the meantime, however, a shopping district has grown up over the site, so the group leases an empty shop planning to tunnel over to the presumed location. And so it goes, as the greedy tunnelers squabble toward their goal, with Shima directing their moves and fending off such amorous advances as she may not wish to entertain. Somehow caught up in all of this is young Satoru, whom the landlord insists the treasure-hunters must hire in their phony real-estate office, and the pretty Ryuko, whom Satoru loves but who keeps him at an arm's length. The whole thing builds to a cataclysm, of course, in which the plans are complicated by the municipal authorities' decision to raze the shopping district over the tunnelers' heads, and the general greed leads to their killing one another off. This is early Imamura, and a film that he was pressed by the studio into doing, but it has much of his characteristic sardonic humor and jaundiced view of human beings.

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