Japanese Killers and Endangered Theaters

I haven’t talked about the Shohei Imamura series that ran recently at the Castro and is now playing at the Pacific Film Archive. I had a reason: I had never seen one of Imamura’s films.

I fixed that problem last night, going to the Archive to see Vengeance Is Mine. Now I’m impressed. Imamura takes us into the mind of a psychopath in this film, tracking the life of and manhunt for one of Japan’s most notorious serial killers. The result isn’t pretty. Imamura and screenwriter Masaru Baba treat Iwao Enokizu (Ken Ogata) analytically, neither asking for nor receiving any sympathy for a man incapable of feeling sympathy towards others. Yet the film itself is far from cold. For while Enokizu himself fascinates and repels us, Imamura makes us care deeply for the imperfect people whose lives Enokizu touches, ruins, and in some cases cuts short. This one stays with you a long time.

The Archive will screen Vengeance Is Mine again on Saturday, June 23.

Imamura made films about the seamy underbelly of Japanese (and all modern) society. I’m going to have to see more of them. He died last year at the age of 79.

In other news, Marin Primary School is putting on a bake sale Sunday to raise money for saving the Lark. The sale, from noon to 3:00 in front of the theater, isn’t likely to raise the $300,000 they still need to keep the theater from closing, but it should help.