I didn’t much like Immura’s gruesome”Vengeance Is Mine” (1979, following an eleven-year hiatus from making feature films) nor his long (bloated) 1981 “Eijanaika,” which has been translated as “but means something closer to “What the Hell!” Like”The Pornographers” and ”Vengeance Is Mine,” the focus of “Eejanaika,” seems to be a not very savory male character. And most of the other characters are male, though I’d say that second most prominent character, Ine (Momoi Kaori, “Kagemusha”) is a woman, one who opens her legs for male customers wh have paid to try to blow streamers into her vagina and who tries with occasional success not to be raped.
Her husband, Genji (Izumiya Shigurya, “Hacki-ko”) was lost at sea, but picked up by an American ship and is returned to Japan after a six-year absence, and immediately clapped in jail. He meets a man (Ogata Ken) from the Ryukus (islands between Kyushu and Taiwan), who teams up with Genzi in various nefarious deeds organized by those trying to destablizie the Tokugawa Shogunate. I thought the Meiji “restoration” was a revolution from above, but it seems to have been preceded by much social unrest orchestrated both by Tokugawa retainers and imperial ones.
The movie goes on and on with sexual betrayals and other kinds and playing the American officials. (Genji speaks English though he fails to use that rare gift to profit his wife and himself.)
The music signals carnivalesque, though there is very little that I found funny. I guess the jaunty music blocks considering what goes on onscreen as tragic. But it does not block my judgment that the proceedings are dull, easily the dullest Imamura feature film I’ve seen (and I’ve seen fifteen of the twenty he made).
Though the movie has a dizzying pace, particular scenes seem to drag on, as if Imamura was having a belated influence from Ozu, for whom he had worked in the early 1950s (including on “Tokyo Story”).
The view of the bottom of Japanese society of the 1860s differed little from the view of the bottom of Japanese society of the 1960s in earlier Imamura movies: greed, duplicity, and bawdiness the most prominent features.
©2016, Stephen O. Murray