‘A Man Vanishes’, Dir: Shohei Imamura
Shohei Imamura’s hybrid documentary/fiction film from 1967, plays at IFC center tongight as part of the great Stranger Than Fiction Series.
Also, awesomely, it’s available on youtube here(don’t forget to turn on the subtitles, duh.)
Here’s an excerpt from Manohla Dargis’s review in the NYT:
If “A Man Vanishes” — a movie about a disappearance and the transformation of reality into an ever more mercurial mystery, a vertiginous drama and the very stuff of cinema — played at the Cannes Film Festival this year, it would have been hailed as a thrilling discovery. That surely will be the response of filmgoers lucky enough to see this 1967 masterwork from the Japanese director Shohei Imamura (1926-2006), which begins a weeklong run on Thursday in Manhattan at the Anthology Film Archives before moving elsewhere. Seemingly banal in its conceit, wildly startling in its execution, it tracks a film crew that, like a detective squad, investigates what became of an ordinary man.
The reason Tadashi Oshima vanished is the enigma that sets the film in motion, though it eventually becomes evident that Imamura was also chasing other questions. There’s a no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase quality to the opening scenes, which lay out the stakes and terrain. Shot in black and white, it begins with a man who, after a stroll through a Kafka-esque maze of filing cabinets, reads from a missing-persons report. Oshima — a salesman, 32, with a medium build, square face and caterpillar brows — was reported missing in April 1965, having disappeared, “motive and cause unknown.” The movie then jumps to a crowded street scene, and a male voice, presumably that of Imamura, asks, “Where can anyone missing be in such a small country?”
It’s a question that Imamura and his crew pursue in an inquiry that turns into an increasingly complex look at a man, his culture and his country. The first revelation or crack in the case, as it were, comes from co-workers and relatives who explain that Oshima embezzled money from his company. Instead of firing him, his boss says, the company docked his pay. The film then takes a surprising turn when one of the apparent interviewers in the scene, a woman, Yoshie Hayakawa, explains that, having just dated Oshima briefly, she may have known only his good side. What, she asks the boss, is his opinion of Oshima? The answer (“timid and gentle”) isn’t critical, but the revelation that she is the missing man’s fiancée is a jolt because it goes against the grain of documentary objectivity.
When a second interviewer asks Hayakawa, “How do you feel?,” you may think he should ask you the same question. Because this is a documentary — isn’t it?