A culture clash worthy of Samuel Fuller lies at the heart of Susumu Hani's unsettling 1963 Japanese feature, in which a housewife repeatedly leaves her small, modern, antiseptic apartment to visit a nearby encampment of ragpickers. Among them she finds an old college friend of her husband's who prefers his present life to a "respectable" job, and her fascination with the man and his community begins to threaten her marriage. She and her husband share an apartment in an anonymous building whose almost surreal disconnection from the land contravenes centuries of traditional Japanese architecture, making them even more rootless than the ragpickers. The husband holds an unnamed office job, in contrast to the ragpickers, whose gritty work seems more concrete and material. But as the wife's fascination grows, the film becomes an almost vertiginous plunge into the destabilizing effects of a subjective quest. Hani mixes professional and nonprofessional actors, heightening the differences between his characters; his shifting camera angles introduce unexpected points of view, and by following the wife with a handheld camera he emphasizes the tenuousness of her search. In the end, Hani suggests, social norms are less important than an individual's direct, moment-to-moment experiences. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, December 13, 3:45, 312-443-3737. --Fred Camper
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.