Imamura’s independently produced follow-up to Pigs and Battleships is one of cinema's great films on filmmaking. Subu (Shoichi Ozawa) is a small-scale movie mogul, a producer/distributor of 8mm erotic reels that he shoots in the desolate outskirts of Osaka or in threadbare home studios. Though he is considered a “maestro” by his devoted staff, his work life is a constant stream of yakuza shakedowns, police harassment, sales pitches, and unruly shoots. His home life offers little respite: Sharing his bed with a widow who keeps a carp she believes is her reincarnated husband, Subu quietly longs for the woman’s homely teenage daughter. Adapting Akiyuki Nosaka’s best-selling novel, Imamura interweaves the lurid with the lyrical, peeping through the Scope frame at the lives of the disreputable, the criminal, and the downright bizarre.
“It would be difficult to mistake an Imamura film for anyone else’s—few filmmakers ever had a more dire view of mankind. His was rooted to the verities of Japanese life in extremis . . . [Imamura] began as a studio apprentice with Yasujiro Ozu, and he quickly established a distaste for his sensei’s restraint and quiet eloquence. (Even Imamura’s interior space[s] . . . are deliberately cramped and chaotic, in direct contrast to Ozu’s famous, measured rooms.) In fact, he has always seemed a sort of Japanese Sam Fuller, fascinated with working-class ruin and primal impulse. And he could be viciously funny.”—Michael Atkinson, The Boston Phoenix