The photography & video quality on this are so excellent, the story could’ve been about nothing and I still would’ve enjoyed it. But the story is neat too.
A worker has deserted from the army, and runs off with his son in search of work. He’s lured to a mining town and then killed by a mysterious white-suited man. End of movie.
But no! First of all, he sticks around as a ghost… second, the same actor plays a lookalike union leader at one of the two mining communities. Nobody figures out who the white-suited man is, or what he’s up to, but he later kills a women shopkeeper also, the last person to see the first man alive. The union bosses flail around and finally kill each other, the dead wander among the ghost community of the town, and the murdered man’s son hides, observes, and lives off stolen candy from the shop as the movie gets quickly darker and stranger. Apparently it’s all a satire about corruption.
An excellent first feature. Teshigahara had his visual style down, wasn’t injecting as much surreal weirdness into the image as he later would. Reviews mention Antonioni and Resnais as visual influences, and Kafka, Beckett and Carroll as story influences. This came out right after Jigoku, Viridiana, Last Year at Marienbad, The Testament of Orpheus, Eyes Without a Face and L’Avventura, and fits right in with that early 60’s European art film scene.
Eureka says “Teshigahara coined the term ‘documentary fantasy’ for this study of the powerless, impoverished worker in postwar Japan.”