Black Sun (1964, Koreyoshi Kurahara)

A kid called Akira (Tamio Kawaji of Tokyo Drifter, Youth of the Beast) buys a Max Roach record called Black Sun, bumps into a woman outside who smashes the record by accident, so he steals their car and sells it. Gets “home” to the crumbling church tower he illegally occupies with his dog Thelonious Monk and finds the cops are searching it for a murderous American GI.

It’s a reasonable setup – we learn a little about Akira (a carefree criminal who loves jazz) and are prepped for a meeting between Akira and the GI. Good jazzy score, and high-energy filmmaking (plus a weird fisheye effect when the camera moves). But it soon gets much crazier than expected.

Turns out Gill, the shell-shocked American (Chico Roland, who I just saw as a disgraced pastor in Gate of Flesh), doesn’t care for jazz – or dogs. Akira is honored beyond belief to have an actual black man at his place, but Gill trashes it and kills the dog. They go back and forth with the machine gun threatening each other, then Akira steals an idea from a jazz record sleeve so they can go out in public – puts himself in blackface and Gill in clownface.

Gill is badly hurt from a bullet he caught before we met him, starts raving that he wants to visit the sea. Akira’s tower gets torn down, all his remaining jazz records and paraphenalia destroyed, so with nothing to lose, he helps Gill (who has never been nice to him, really) get to the shore. And if you’d have told me a few minutes into this movie that it would end with Gill floating away over the ocean tied to a giant balloon while Akira holds off the cops with a machine gun, I wouldn’t have believed you.