Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Rarity From Shockiku

In the West, this obscure Japanese exploitation gem (Kage no koruma, '70) from Shockiku was sold as a killer kid movie. There is a kid who may or may not be malevolent, but the film is really about a salaryman's (Go Kato) affair with a childhood sweetheart (Shima Iwashita). To keep the affair under wraps, he (Kato) is forced to manufacture extravagant lies to keep his wife from discovering the deception.

The little boy, Ken-chan (Hisato Okamoto), is the mistress's son, and Kato is not comfortable with the boy. Much of his discomfort is fueled by his guilt, and he begins to suspect that the boy is plotting his comeuppance. Perhaps the English title provides a clue to Kato's paranoid mind set. The boy represents the darkness within self? Is he so guilty that he's contemplating suicide?

Although attempts were made to sell the film to Western distributors, it was never widely distributed anywhere.

Putting The Bad Seed ('56) aside, it's Western marketing campaign predated The Omen ('76), the film that launched a hundred pre-teen horrors. In tone and pitch, it shares similarities with a film I like very much, Robert Mulligan's The Other ('72). Although the emphasis is on the boys' POV in The Other, it is a fitting companion piece.

The film's cinematographer, Takashi Kawamata, shot a handful of excellent Japanese movies including Immamura's Black Rain.

The director of this, Yoshitaro Nomura, also made Village of Eight Gravestones and the amazing Kichiku (The Demon).

This has a gorgeous, shadowy look, and traverses smoothly between eroticism and suspense.

Outside Japan, Nomura ought to be much better known. His work is superb.

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