Sunday, March 18, 2007

Intentions of Murder (1964)

Next up at BAM's Shohei Imamura fest is Intentions of Murder, a 2 1/2 hour nightmare ode to female endurance. Sadako lives like a wife with a low-level white-collar worker, Riichi, without being registered as such with the state. He had taken in her and her child, but treats them as maid and unwanted ward. When Sadako is raped by a thief when alone in the house, she attempts suicide, but holds off wanting to see her son one more time. The more she holds off, the clearer it becomes she will do no such thing....and then the rapist returns to declare his love and asks her to run away with him. The murderous intentions swing his way, with the oft delayed suicide pushed further back until this deed is done.

Like the previous year's The Insect Woman, Intentions investigates a female character who is neither martyr, hero, or terribly sympathetic, but simply a survivor (they also both include false teeth as punchlines). It's an animalistic view of humanity, the instinct to survive overwhelming any other operative morality or principle. She is sloppy and overweight, makes decisions based not on reason but on impulse, and then backs down from them when faced with reality. She stumbles her way to independence.

It's the most self-consciously stylish film I've seen from him, with virtuoso following shots into and outside trains, a bird's eye 360 degree twirl, cramped looming close-ups (see photos!) and scads of deep focus setups, the most remarkable when Sadako struggles in bonds in the back room while in the foreground the attacker faces away from us, in front of a light bulb swinging back and forth that intermittently reveals her straining body. A brutalizing and troubling experience.


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