Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vengeance is Mine - Shohei Imanura (1979)

Iwao Enokuzu deserves a place alongside Travis Bickle and Alex de Large as one of the most commanding and sociopathic antiheroes in cinema.

The way he simply cuts a swath through the lives of everyone he touches, destroying those he seems to care about in his own twisted way, those he detests and those to whom he is indifferent alike.

In what may be one of the most devastating murder scenes I have seen, Iwao starts to strangle a woman who has come to love him, knowing full well that he is on the run for murder.

Her face, as he strangles her is docile, as if she trusts him completely and will accept whatever he feels is best.

It is hard to watch because not only a vicious murder, (we have become accustomed to those) it is a profound betrayal.

But aside from the sickening protagonist, what stands out are the side characters, many of whom are every bit as twisted as Iwao, most notably the killer’s father who wants more than anything to touch his daughter-in-law.

There are so many resonant moments in this film. The scene where the killer’s father buries a puppy alive up to its neck as his daughter-in-law pours boiling water on its head.

The scene where an old woman quietly instructs Iwao not to kill her...and he inexplicably obeys.

But I think my favorite moment in the film is when the father tells his daughter-in-law that he is ready to be carted off to the old folks’ home where he can set in the sun and drool all over himself.

His daughter-in-law tells him that she’ll come to see him every day and lick the drool off his lips.

Part of you is genuinely moved but this level of affection and devotion while the rest of you is just going ‘eeewwwwww.’

You won't know what to make of this film, but I promise you will never forget it.

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