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Chronicles of Inferno: Japan’s Art Theater Guild

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
7:00 p.m. A Man Vanishes
Shohei Imamura (Japan, 1967)

Read Manohla Dargis’s recent review in the New York Times

(Ningen jōhatsu). The first film coproduced by ATG after its relative success as a distributor, A Man Vanishes was created when Shohei Imamura approached the company for support for his first “documentary.” What at first purports to be a documentary on the missing-person problem in overcrowded Japan, however, develops into Imamura’s most brilliant illustration of the absurdity of “objective cinema.” Using only a small crew and no cast as such, Imamura follows up on one of hundreds of missing-persons reports filed with the police. He interviews the missing man’s family, employers, acquaintances, and his fiancée, who has filed the report thinking that her own sister has murdered the man. The film takes on a surreal aspect when the fiancée loses interest in the murder and takes a strong liking to the interviewer himself. Using sync-sound and hidden-camera techniques to blur fact and fiction filmmaking long before it was trendy to do so, Imamura effects the final breakdown of cinema verité in the film’s audacious final sequence.

• Photographed by Kenji Ishiguro. With Yoshie Hayakawa, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi, Sayo Hayakawa, Imamura. (125 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From The Japan Foundation, permission Icarus Films)