The Man Without a Map

Year: 1968
 Hiroshi Teshigahara
Rating: 6.0

Here is an opportunity to watch Shintaro Katsu in a contemporary setting without a sword in his hand. Katsu is most famous for his long running series of Zatoichi films, but he also appeared in many other period films and even his roles in Yakuza films were usually set in the past. So it is a bit unusual to see him in this film with sunglasses on and a cigarette always in hand. He is kind of cool. In this one Katsu plays a detective hired to look for a missing husband by his wife (Etsuko Ichihara). It turns into a strange elliptical investigation that basically goes nowhere - in circles or in dead end streets that peter out. It is full of conversations that feel cut off - such as one in which the detective says "do you hear something", the wife "what is it?" and that is the end of the scene. As the detective conducts his search, plots pop up and then disappear, characters enter into the film but then vanish from the film all leading to nothing. But following in the tradition of all P.I.s from Marlowe to Spade he takes his beatings, gets fired but refuses to stop looking - but looking for what exactly?

So if that doesn't excite you, one would understand - it isn't very exciting but it is on some subliminal level rather fascinating as you keep waiting for something to happen like Godot showing up and it doesn't. You keep thinking there is something here but what it is was not exactly clear to me, but it intrigued me nevertheless. What is the director (Hiroshi Teshigahara, best known for Woman in the Dunes) trying to say. I admit I am not sure. The cinematography is gorgeous with vibrant colors sometimes exploding on the screen (and a beautiful transfer) and the music of Tôru Takemitsu is lovely. The camera positioning is inventive and constantly unique - often focused on the characters reflections in glass or mirrors (which I assume meant something philosophical) or on another character who is basically an extra. This feels influenced by Seijun Suzuki and European directors like Godard and Antonioni in its obliqueness and meandering storyline that just lingers there with no conclusion in sight. It is a languorous artistic exploration of alienation, loneliness , need for love and a human desire to just vanish from sight.