Japan, 1979 (MIFF 1980, Programme 3)

Director: Shohei Imamura

Shohei lmamura has been making films in Japan for nearly two decades and it is only further evidence of the West's near complete ignorance of Japanese art and artists that his work has barely raised a ripple on Western consciousness. Yet for all that, his work is of the same magnitude and value as his more celebrated contemporary, Nagisa Oshima and the past masters, Mizoguchi, Ozu and Kurosawa.

Imamura's latest film, Vengeance is Mine is one of his few to even break into the international festival circuit. It is based on police records and a 1976 non-fiction novel by Ryuzo Saki, and consists of a mosaic tracing the life of lwao Enokizu, from his persecuted youth in a family of Catholic fishermen, through a life of violent and unremitting crime, to his final eerie end.

Shohei lmamura has said about his central character: "(He) is a man, a Christian, very self-centred, who sets off on a journey with a driving force of remarkable energy. A cold burden on his back drives him with abnormal tension, and eventually to crime. A discreet, middle-aged man, it is impossible to attribute his crime to anyone else nor to society as a whole...

Wretched feelings drive him to commit crime repeatedly, and finally there comes a point when he cannot find an enemy outside of himself, his blade is turned to his inner self. As a Christian, he knows that God has said, 'Vengeance is Mine!' and he lets his body subordinate the law...

Inside of this man, could there be nothing but hollowness? I think I can see the forlorn inner soul of today's man."

Shohei Imamura — Born 1926

Feature films — Stolen Desire, Nishi Ginza Station, Endless Desire (1958), My Second Brother/The Diary of Sueko (1959), Pigs and Battleships (1961), The Insect Woman (1963), Intentions of Murder (1964), The Pornographers: Introduction to Anthropology (1966), A Man Vanishes (1967), (Documentary), Tales from a Southern Island/The Profound Desire of the Gods (1968), The History of Postwar Japan as told by a Bar Hostess (1970), Karayuki-san, the Making of a Prostitute (1975), Vengeance is Mine (1979).

See also...


He kills, laughing. That's the kind he is. Often touted as a Japanese In Cold Blood, Vengeance is Mine sees Shohei Imamura energetically depict a true-life murderer who kept evading a police dragnet a... More »

INTENTIONS OF MURDER (aka Unholy Desire)

“Arresting and provocative… An authentic shocker.” - New York Times Another film from Shohei Imamura often muttered in the same breath as ‘masterpiece', Intentions of Murder (aka Unholy Desire) mixes ... More »


“The Ballad of Narayama is Imamura's masterpiece.” - Senses of Cinema No holds barred in its depiction of a harsh village existence 100 years ago, The Ballad of Narayama is a remake of the 1958 film o... More »


“Only the Japanese - perhaps only Imamura - could have made a film in which the bomb at Hiroshima is simply the starting point for an unforgiving critique of Japanese society itself.” - Chicago Sun-Ti... More »


The Eel (winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes 1997) balances comic tragedy and drama in its telling of the rehabilitation of Takuro, released from jail after stabbing his wife eight years previous. In t... More »


“A highly original blend of documentary and fiction techniques (and a worthy precursor to Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf's later experiments).” - Senses of Cinema Making his first venture into documentary,... More »

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