Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Japanese actor Tatsuya Nakadai, currently the subject of a curated seven-week retrospective at the Film Forum, has more than 125 acting credits to his name. But his career isn't simply about quantity. There's also the matter of quality. As I looked up movies in the series, I was impressed by how many of them received top ratings at IMDB.

I'd already seen some of the movies in the series, including the Kurosawa films Kagemusha (July 6/7), Ran (July 11/12), and Sanjuro (July 17) as well as Yojimbo and High and Low, which have already played. Thanks to a previous Film Forum series, I'd also seen the samurai movies Harakiri, Sword of Doom, and Kill! (July 15/16)—great titles, huh?

In advance of Film Forum's three-week presentation of Masaki Kobayashi's massive The Human Condition (1959-1961), so far I've seen two films in the series that were new to me. Each was fascinating—stylish and bizarre and reflective of international influences on movies during the 1960s.

Hiroshi Teshigahara's The Face of Another, adapted by Kobo Abe from one of his novels, concerns a man with a severely damaged face who obtains an experimental mask-face that makes him appear normal, under the condition that he tell his doctor all of his experiences with the mask-face. In one respect, the Twilight Zone-y story is, like Teshigahara and Abe's preceding Woman in the Dunes, one of those extended metaphor deals, pursuing questions of identity. And, if the premise wasn't completely buyable when it was made in 1966 (when fingerprinting was well-established), it's even less so in this age of face transplants and body modification. But there are also brilliant moments and surprising surrealistic touches that make the movie very worthwhile anyway. And Toru Takemitsu himself wrote the atmospheric, eerie music for this film companion to Eyes Without a Face. Here's a Japanese trailer for the film, which is available on NetFlix.


The other Nakudai film I recently enjoyed is apparently more of a rarity: Kihachi Okamoto's Age of Assassins (1967), an edgy-humorous takeoff on intrigue movies that isn't so very different from The President's Analyst. Here you've got the story of a mild-mannered criminology professor targeted by sinister survivors of the Axis. If you're interested in the writing of Haruki Murakami, try to check out this movie, which has a close affinity to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and other tales of Murakami. The movie also anticipates Enter the Dragon and features cool credits as well as a Masaru Sato score that reminds me of Ennio Morricone's (and possibly someone else's) film music.

Here's a trailer for Age of Assassins—but beware of spoilers!

Source (2:40)

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