Intentions of Murder

Shohei Imamura's 1964 film is another of his half-ironic, half-awed tributes to brute instinct as a means of survival, though unlike the better-known Pigs and Battleships and Eijanaika, this one is couched in intimate rather than epic terms. His heroine is a pudgy, blank-faced housemaid who has become the common-law wife of a prissy bureaucrat; her dull life is upset when she's raped by a burglar, who then returns to profess his love for her as the mother he never had. She survives the abuse of these whimpering males through an inner strength of neither character nor intellect, but of sheer stolidity. Imamura's wide-screen, black-and-white images combine descriptive and metaphorical elements in a single space, pushing a documentary style toward an expressionistic impact. Though slow going in spots, the film is a fascinating example of an alternative current in Japanese cinema, far removed from the serenity and spiritualism of Ozu and Mizoguchi. In Japanese with subtitles. 150 min.

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