The Man Who Left His Will On Film (1970, Nagisa Oshima)

A closed loop of a movie, unusual for Oshima in that you can guess where the story is going and how it will end, but there’s plenty of engaging craziness in between. Opens with a handheld shot of two people fighting over a camera. Someone with a camera suicides off a building, the cops apparently have taken the camera, and Motoki wakes up with his friends (or comrades – they seem to be a political media collective).

Nobody else seems to know anything about anyone jumping off any buildings, just that police attacked while the group was filming a protest in the park and took their camera, and Motoki had bravely tried to reclaim it (though they chide him for having a sense of private property about the group’s camera). Motoki swears to Yasuko that her boyfriend Endo killed himself this morning – though Endo was in the room with them all a few minutes before. Then he rapes Yasuko – why? A “seventh art series” video essay I found says that she was always his girlfriend, but when Motoki doesn’t seem to remember this she plays along, agreeing that she dates Endo.

He and Yasuko start acting like a couple, screen footage of seemingly random locations shot by another group member then set out to find these locations, each starting to “remember” events that may not have happened, and denying events that did. “The stupid asshole who made that movie didn’t exist!” Motoki seems to accidentally find his own parents’ house while reverse-location-scouting. He sets out to shoot the same landscapes in order to become the other cameraman, and Motoki stands in every shot, ending up hurt or raped each time. Finally we see a POV shot of the group confronting him to return their camera, and he runs – but in front of the handheld camera, as if there are two of him. Atop a building, Motoki appears, blocking his way back down, so he jumps – then we see a hand pick up his camera and run with it.

C. Fujiwara, in an excellent article on Moving Image Source:

The sense that The Man Who Left His Will on Film has come after something else, in a “post” period, is explicit in the Japanese title, Tokyo senso sengo hiwa, which means “Secret Story of the Period after the Tokyo War.” “Tokyo War” refers to the mass protests in November 1969 against Japanese prime minister Eisaku Sato’s visit to the United States. This war is assuredly and emphatically not “the War” that serves as the main historical landmark for characters in other Oshima films, providing a (false) explanation and excuse for their actions (as with the officials in Death by Hanging and the father in Boy [1969]). The Man Who Left His Will on Film places itself within a later history, one perhaps not yet readable at the time it was made.