A MAN VANISHES
directed by Shohei IMAMURA
The Films of Shohei Imamura are among the greatest ever made.- JONATHAN DEMME, DIRECTOR
Not merely a great filmmaker, but one of the greatest artists in the history of cinema. - JOHN HARKNESS,
I like to make messy films. - SHOHEI IMAMURA
Ostensibly Imamura's first work in documentary features, A Man Vanishes is much more, heralding the future work of Kazuo Hara and Werner Herzog, amongst others, in the genre-defying mix of style and loose adherence to filmic "reality." Imamura follows one case of a growing phenomenon of working Japanese men who, sent to other cities while their families are left behind, disappear completely. The film concerns Yoshie Hayakawa, whose fiancée vanishes from sight, leaving behind only shadowy evidence of his past, casting darkness over Hayakawa's relationship with her sister, her fiancée’s family, and even the investigator, who himself may not be what he seems to be. An exceedingly radical film in scope, technique, and aesthetic, Imamura's film is in many ways a distillation of his many themes and obsessions as well as an implosion of them, casting off into the various orbits he would travel later.
DRAMA HD Remastered - B&W - 1967 - JAPAN - 130min
ORIGINAL TITLE NINGEN JOHATSU
CAST Shigeru TSUYUGUCHI, Yoshie et Sayo HAYAKAWA, Shohei IMAMURA
ORIGINAL LANGUAGE Japanese
PRODUCED BY Shohei IMAMURA pour IMAMURA PRODUCTIONS et NIHON EIGA SHINSHA
Along with his colleagues Nagisa Ôshima and Masahiro Shinoda, Imamura began his serious directorial career as a member of the New Wave movement in Japan. Reacting against the studio system, and particularly against the style of Yasujirô Ozu, the director he first assisted, Imamura moved away from the subtlety and understanted nature of the classical masters to a celebration of the primitive and spontaneous aspects of Japanese life.
To explore this level of Japanese consciousness, Imamura focuses on the lower classes, with characters who range from bovine housewives to shamans, and from producers of blue movies to troupes of third-rate traveling actors. He has proven himself unafraid to explore themes usually considered taboo, particularly those of incest and superstition. Imamura himself was not born into the kind of lower-class society he depicts. The college-educated son of a physician, he was drawn toward film, and particularly toward the kinds of films he would eventually make, by his love of the avant-garde theater. Imamura has worked as a documentarist, recording the statements of Japanese who remained in other parts of Asia after the end of WWII, and of the "karayuki-san"-Japanese women sent to accompany the army as prostitutes during the war period. His heroines tend to be remarkably strong and resilient, able to outlast, and even to combat, the exploitative situations in which they find themselves. This is a stance that would have seemed impossible for the long-suffering heroines of classical Japanese films. In 1983, Imamura won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival for La ballade de Narayama (1983), based on a Shichirô Fukazawa novel about a village where the elderly are abandoned on a sacred mountaintop to die. Unlike director Keisuke Kinoshita's earlier version of the same story, Imamura's film, shot on location in a remote mountain village, highlights the more disturbing aspects of the tale through its harsh realism. In his attempt to capture what is real in Japanese society, and what it means to be Japanese, Imamura used an actual 40-year-old former prostitute in his Nippon konchûki (1963); a woman who was searching for her missing fiancé in L'évaporation de l'homme (1967); and a non-actress bar hostess as the protagonist of his Nippon Sengoshi - Madamu onboro no Seikatsu (1970). Despite this anthropological bent, Imamura has cleverly mixed the real with the fictional, even within what seems to be a documentary. This is most notable in his L'évaporation de l'homme (1967), in which the fiancée becomes more interested in an actor playing in the film than with her missing lover. In a time when the word "Japanese" is often considered synonymous with "coldly efficient," Imamura's vision of a more robust and intuitive Japanese character adds an especially welcome cinematic dimension.