Sunday 28 July 2013

Endless Desire [1958]

Most agree that Imamura truly established himself with Pigs & Battleships; but if Endless Desire, the third feature of his debut year and ostensibly just another studio quickie, is anything to go by, he was already on his way towards greatness. This pitch black comedy and post-noir provided a fascinating display of his thematic and stylistic traits – the ability to provide a darkly humorous peek into the seedy underbelly of post-War Japanese society. On the tenth anniversary of Japan’s surrender, a bumbling and hen-pecked middle-aged man (Taiji Tonoyama), a slimy teacher with the most ludicrous laugh imaginable (Shoichi Ozawa), a psychotic criminal, and a deceptively normal fourth man, along with a scheming femme fatale (Misako Watanabe), meet in order to lay their hands on a cache of Morphine. The mutually distrustful comrades hire a dilapidated house using faked identities in the locality, and start digging a hole at nights in order to get hold of the unlikely treasure. Their best laid plans, however, start going astray with the presence of a dim-witted guy (Hiroyuki Nagato) hopelessly in love with a pretty neighborhood girl, a leery and grotesque older man who keeps barging in, the government’s plans to demolish the slum, and of course, each member trying to outguess and back-stab the others. It’s obvious from the beginning that things shall end disastrously for them, and they do in the most trenchantly ironic and incredibly amusing manner. The droll and twisted world-view, the sexual undercurrents, the array of hopeless low-lives and losers, the messy and filthy interiors and locales, the brilliant performances by all, and by Ozawa, Tonoyama and Nagato in particular, and the chiaroscuro photography, made this early Imamura a savagely funny watch.

Director: Shohei Imamura
Genre: Comedy/Black Comedy/Crime Thriller/Post-Noir/Heist Film
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan

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