Vengeance Is Mine (1979)

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Shōhei Imamura directs Ken Ogata, Mayumi Ogawa and Rentarō Mikuni in this thriller following a true life Japanese con man and serial killer – his life, crimes and loves – while the official manhunt closes in on him. 

Vengeance is Mine starts as a procedural but becomes slightly unhinged by inexplicable visual similes as it reaches its inevitable conclusion. There’s lots of sex, even more shocking unrequited desires and a fair slice of violence. Suprisingly though, after the bloody initial attack the murders move to the background and become matter of fact. It is the uncontrollable emotions – lust and seduction and mercy and understanding- that seem like the aberrations. Ken Ogata is a fantastic chameleon in this. Some scenes he is a affable ingratiating impression of a regular man, others the cold blooded killer and others still a thuggish, ego driven brute. Always convincing no matter what persona he chooses to wear. Maybe the point is we’ll never truly understand a human – their actions can be wildly contradictory, their history may suggest a pattern of cause and effect for their behaviour but that cannot definitively dictate how they’ll always relate to the other individuals they have to exist with.

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