Man Without a Map (1968, Hiroshi Teshigahara)

Teshigahara made a fifth film with writer Kobo Abe besides the three features canonized by Criterion and the short Ako, which appears on their Antonio Gaudi collection. I had high hopes for this stray unCriterionized film, but this time Abe and Teshigahara’s identity-crisis protagonist was so lost, I couldn’t even follow him. Also, Teshi seems to have misplaced his brilliant cinematographer, settling instead for a Gamera D.P. who sometimes seems to forget he’s shooting in color.

There’s plenty of visual interest, though – there are some wild geometric patterns and treated images, sudden shocks of yellow and red, and nice cinemascope compositions. The camera sometimes spies on people not in conversation, as if doing its own detective work. Our hero has a dialogue with a man we only see grotesquely reflected in a glass.

From the official blurb: “A salary man named Hiro Nemuro went out to deliver some documents… never to be seen again… Joining a detective who has been hired by the wife of the missing man, the film progresses at first like a hard-boiled detective story as the search leads the investigator further into the seedy Tokyo underworld of unlicensed taxi drivers, blackmail gangs and pornography, but his life becomes bit-by-bit more like the life of the missing man he seeks until he begins to lose his own identity.”

Detective Shintaro Katsu (Zatoichi himself, also Hanzo the Razor) is hired by missing man’s wife Etsuko Ichihara (Samurai Rebellion, Black Rain), then follows her shady brother into some sort of struggle in which the brother is killed – and I’m already lost. Then he follows a suicidal man who claims to have information but is really just lonely and is glad for the attention. The detective ends up with the missing man’s wife – then he escapes her, going missing himself. Something like that. I shouldn’t have watched while sleepy. Or maybe that’s exactly what I should have done, since it made images like these more mysterious.

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