“Endless Desire” (Hateshinaki yokubô, 1958) was the first (or third) movie Imamura Shohei directed (after having been an assistant to Ozu). Though I thought it dragged a bit, it seemed like an Imamura black comedy before that was a brand, certainly more than the genial “Stolen Desire,” also from 1958. More black (noir) than comedy, it’s a sort of Japanese “Rififi” with an innocent young romance intercut. And a 1950s jazz score.
The conspirators, when they were in the army at the end of WWII, hid a barrel of morphine, pledging to return to dig it up in ten years. A woman (very much a femme fatale, played by Watanabe Misako) has taken the place of the original leader, a lieutenant, and plays the men against each other and tries to play the innocent local youth, Satoru, too. He is perplexed by her sexual advances.
The climax, following four murders, involves a typical Japanese movie rain deluge, and a partly demolished bridge, followed by a sunny epilogue with Satoru (Nagato Hiroyuki) still flummoxed by his spunky would-be bride, Ryoku (Nozoe Hitomi). (The actors would return in “Pigs and Battleship,” with her again evading him. Cinematographer Himeda Shisaku also became an Imamura regular).
©2016, Stephen O. Murray