Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Man Who Left His Will on Film [1970]

The Man Who Left His Will on Film was Oshima’s cryptic, self-reflexive and discursive treatise on memory and nature of identity, as well as a tongue-in-cheek exposition on the role of radical politics in cinema and vice-versa. Drawing parallels with Resnais’ mind-bending classic Last Year at Marienbad would be natural given its freewheeling style, formal avant-gardism and thematic elements. The film begins with a POV shot of a nameless guy with a Bolex camera who jumps off a building for seemingly no reason. The shaggy-haired and perennially angry Motoki (Kazuo Goto), who belongs to a group of underground left-wing activists, becomes obsessed with the seemingly mundane shots the guy had captured on film before committing suicide – he doesn’t just want to find the meaning of the images, but also recreate the exact shots. And in this deeply existential quest joins the dead guy’s lover, the cute looking and eerily placid Yasuko (Emiko Iwasaki). But, the film’s nowhere as simple as that. The identity of the dead filmmaker is so fluid that it’s impossible to be sure whether or not he even existed – he might be from an alternate history, a figment of the character’s mind, a powerful abstraction and symbol for the two aimless youths or just an elaborate joke concocted by Oshima. Throw in some wryly humorous take on armchair intellectualism and left-wing political activism sprung from the desire to change the world, alternated with sharp social commentary, spiritual rambling, deftly sensual touches, and a stylized play on the medium itself, and what one gets is this simultaneously cerebral, chaotic, amusing, and frustrating piece of work.

Director: Nagisa Oshima
Genre: Drama/Political Drama/Surreal Drama/Avant-Garde/Experimental Film
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan


Sam Juliano said...

I am a huge fan of Oshima's work Shubhajit, but sad to say I have not seen this particular film. But your trenchant, superbly reading capsule will be useful after the fact as it is now as an introduction and beyond. The assertion of the existential context and the comparison to Resnais points to a very challenging viewing, but I am hardly surprised with Oshima.

Great post!!!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. Interestingly, I've already met a few Oshima aficionados who haven't watched this film. Somehow it has slipped them as well. Yes, this is a challenging movie from an intellectual & analytical standpoint, but a darn interesting film nonetheless.