Vengeance is Mine (1979)

After the spectacular non-success of Profound Desires of the Gods, Imamura retreated into documentary making for a number of years, before finally returning to fiction features with a film based on fact. It’s a true crime story, to be more precise, looking at the adventures of a man who killed five people in Japan in 1963 and eluded police for several weeks thereafter. Plotwise I suppose the film actually is that simple, and as far as I can tell from my limited knowledge I don’t think the film takes any great liberties with events other than changing the names of the actual people involved (which were changed anyway in the novel that Imamura based the film on); the complications come from the film’s chronological structure involving, technically, flashbacks within flashbacks (which, for the most part, didn’t phase me that much, though admittedly I had to rewind the disc a few times when I felt I’d missed something), and also the psychology at work. Cos Imamura never really gives reasons for Enokizu’s acts; there’s obvious daddy issues at work (with an additional helping of Oedipus), stemming from seeing his father humiliated by an imperial officer in 1938, when Enokizu was a child, but there’s also a feeling that this is too simple an explanation for what he does; Enokizu is a clear bundle of confused instincts (his religious background—part of Japan’s Roman Catholic minority—being just one) and it’s probably too easy to pin his deeds down to just one factor. As for weird relationships, well, I suppose Dad’s fascination with his son’s wife (and vice versa) doesn’t really count as incest per se, but it’s still dubious. I don’t think I liked this as much as the other Imamura films I’ve seen (the length doesn’t help), but it’s still good. I regret now that when I taped it off SBS years ago I never watched it at the time (I was terrible for taping stuff then not watching it), cos otherwise I’d have latched onto Imamura a lot sooner than I have…

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