(Vengeance Is Mine)
Director: Shohei Imamura
Production: Schochiku Co. Ltd.; color, 35mm; running time: 128 minutes. Released 1979. Filmed in Japan.
Producer: Kazuo Inoue; screenplay: Masaru Baba, from a book by Ryuzo Saki; photography: Shinsaku Himeda; editor: Keiichi Uraoka; music: Shinichiro Ikebe.
Cast: Ken Ogata ( Iwao Enokizu ); Rentaro Mikuni ( Shizuo Enokizu ); Chocho Mikayo ( Kayo Enokizu ); Mitsuko Baisho ( Kazuko Enokizu ); Mayumi Ogawa ( Haru Asano ); Nijiko Kiyokawa ( Hisano Asano ).
Award: Kinema Jumpo Award, Best Film, 1979–80.
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After a long search, in Vengeance Is Mine , the Japanese police finally capture Iwao Enokizu, an almost legendary criminal who's left a trail of corpses to mark the last year of his murderous rampage across Japan. As the police drive him to prison, a flashback recounts the key moments in Enokizu's life: the humiliation of his father, a Japanese Catholic, by the military during the war; Enokizu's brutal murders; and his relationship with the proprietress of a small inn at Hamamatsu, where he has avoided the police dragnet by passing himself off as a professor from Kyoto University. After finally being brought to justice, Enokizu confronts his wife and father—who have entered into an incestuous relationship—and declares that he finally understands the reason behind his rage.
Considered by many critics to be his masterpiece, Vengeance Is Mine marked a return to feature filmmaking for director Shohei Imamura after an eight year "retirement" during which time he worked exclusively on documentaries for Japanese television. The film was extremely successful with both Japanese audiences and critics, who voted it "Best Japanese Film of the Year" in the prestigious film journal Kinema Jumpo . Its box office success allowed Imamura to enter into an advantageous financial relationship with Shochiku Studios, which gave him the possibility of a better level of production while creating new national and international outlets for his work.
Imamura's work up until 1970 can be characterized as highly textured, almost baroque narratives which freely intertwined the sociological, the sexual, and the political; this was followed by a period in which he explored the outer limits of the documentary and the possibility of attaining a kind of "truth" on film. Vengeance Is Mine introduced a new stage in Imamura's development. He returns to the narratological complexity of the pre-1970 work, but dispenses with the strong central character (usually female in the earlier films) whose odyssey structures the film. Instead, Vengeance Is Mine introduced a new series of films built on patterns of continuous disorientation, which causes each spectator to question the relation of each image to the next. Often, just the beginnings and ends of actions are shown; it is only later that we discover what actually happened. In Vengeance Is Mine the focus of the action glides between Enokizu, his father, the proprietress at Hamamatsu, and the police investigation, deliberately undercutting any concentration on a single main character. Imamura instead creates a portrait of a world, of which Enokizu is perhaps the ugliest, yet most revealing, manifestation. Brilliantly photographed by Shinsaku Himeda, one of the greatest of all Japanese cinematographers and a frequent collaborator of Imamura's, Vengeance Is Mine also features a superb performance by Ken Ogata as Enokizu.