384 Vengeance Is Mine

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Re: 384 Vengeance Is Mine

#101 Post by manicsounds » Fri Sep 26, 2014 1:01 am

Shochiku will release it on blu-ray in Japan in January, using the Criterion 1.66:1 master. No English subs, and fewer extras.

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Re: 384 Vengeance Is Mine

#102 Post by movielocke » Wed Oct 08, 2014 2:25 pm

This is the first Imamura I've seen and I felt it was pretty tremendous. Did nobody else note the ominous use of Yellow throughout the film? I'm not sure if it prefaced every death, but it seemed to symbolize death on the horizon. I was also struck by the scene in which he kills Haru. She's making pickles and her hands are covered in red chili paste, it seems as though there is blood on her hands.

the first hour or so of the film is so stunning, relentless and mesmerizing. As the final 90 minutes unfurl though the film loses some of that momentum as the ordinariness and low key demeanor of Iwao start to weigh on the film. And I think that's quite an achievement, the film makes him seem less exciting, less of antihero and more ordinary, a bit pathetic at times, after building him up, the latter half of the film seems to deconstruct him, but deconstruct him in a way that examines the human qualities of him. Narratively, that's a bit discordant if this were a hollywood film, but it's tremendously satisfying to have this story told without the usual media hysteria tropes that posits all such people are inhuman monsters, unknowable and super capable. To have him be so plain, and to see his pains and problems is just so damn refreshing. It doesn't really elicit sympathy but it also doesn't make him into a celebrity or an antihero to be revered and showered with attention.

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Re: 384 Vengeance Is Mine

#103 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:38 pm

Continuing my Imamura kick:

The movie starts off like a police thriller, with jazzy music ala Dirty Harry, time stamps, police rushing around, and plenty of violence, and continues that way for a bit. It wasn’t until the movie slowed down and opened up that I figured out what Imamura was up to. There’s a black hole at the centre of this movie around which interesting and vibrant stories circle. After the murders and the intensity of the hunt subsides, there’s little interest to find in Iwao. He has no real opinions or personality. He’s empty. But surrounding him are various stories of despair and frustrated desire that are immensely engaging. Perhaps most interesting are the inn hostess and her mother, who are themselves trapped by a violent past and who torment each other for using similar vices and pastimes to escape a crushing existence. In contrast to Iwao, they are alive with wants, needs, passions, despairs, and contradictions, all of which Imamura allows full expression. The most intriguing moment in the film is directed at Iwao, and yet barely involves him: the mother, sensing his murderous desire, levels with him, and makes some curious observations about him. Whether or not she truly reveals anything about Iwao, she certainly tells a lot about herself. We sense Imamura is giving us everything as is, without subordinating it to any framework or preconception. The reactions to Iwao among the characters, surprising as they can be, seem to come out of the strangeness and contradictions of life itself.

Then there’s the title. I’ve noticed reading around a bit that most assume the vengeance referred to is Iwao’s, which is natural, both because his actions are the only ones that could be seen as vengeful and because the title speaks to that black hole of motivation Iwao represents. It is, after all, far from clear just what he could be avenging. There's something to be said for this, but I'd like to take another tack. Looking at the source for this quote in the Bible, you see the vengeance is god’s vengeance. So I think Iwao isn’t getting personal vengeance; I think he’s a tool of vengeance. Certainly Iwao’s father interprets him that way. The elder Enokizu sees Iwao’s behaviour as punishment for his own sins, a very Catholic thing to do. Tho’ never inappropriate with his daughter-in-law, his Catholicism cannot allow him to overlook having had inappropriate thoughts, and he sees in the dissolution of his family god’s punishment. I think this dynamic is the model for what Imamura is doing with this story. Iwao is vengeance, not for any individual’s sins, but for the sins of post-war Japanese society: its greedy, materialist, amoral, get-ahead attitude that led it to profit on the back of the unfortunate and dispossessed finds appropriate embodiment and vengeance in Iwao, a figure driven by superficialities, impulses, and the pettiest of needs to commit the grossest and most needless victimization all while passing unnoticed in Japanese society due to a simple, banal ability to fit in. It’s a testament to Imamura’s clear-sightedness that he could see this as it were cultural sociopathy years before it would find its apotheosis in the bubble economy of the eighties, and more years still before stuff like Vampire’s Kiss and American Psycho would make the same point about America. And unlike those films and books, which chose the exaggerations of parody and satire, Imamura’s focus is always strictly on everyday humanity.

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