RedEye

'A Man Vanishes': Director ahead of his time ★★★ 1/2

"I want to capture this new reality," says the filmmaker behind the camera, Shohei Imamura, in his cunning 1967 riddle "A Man Vanishes." Imamura, who devoted his creative life to both fiction features and documentaries (he died in 2006), is the subject of a six-film retrospective titled "Imamura Investigates," playing through Feb. 11 at the Siskel Film Center. Five of the six look, behave and perform certain ways, according to commonly accepted strictures of non-fiction. But "A Man Vanishes" confounds expectations.

Beginning as a curious, discursive "This Japanese Life"-style verite chronicle of a real-life unsolved disappearance, the film gradually slips into so much else: an essay on voyeurism, on a filmmaker's caprices and responsibilities, on national character and familial shame. Imamura opens in a police station, introducing the case file of a missing-persons case two years earlier involving a rakish, hard-drinking young Tokyo salesman who embezzled from his company. In hiding, with an apparently complicated love life, he has left behind a befuddled family and a scorned fiancee.

The fiancee's nickname is Mouse, and she becomes a prominent player in this strange, stimulating hybrid of narrative fact and fiction. The woman ends up falling for a man involved in the making of the documentary. On camera, Imamura and his colleagues wonder if they've lost control of the story. Or if they ever had it.

These days, anybody with a camera and a trickster's sense of unreliable narration can make some noise. Imamura's hybrid is quieter, more inquisitory. Even if you know where it's going, even with its reiterative passages, "A Man Vanishes" casts a spell. In its day, few precedents existed for the film's approach: This was a few years after "L'Avventura" asserted that the one who goes missing isn't the only real story afoot. Imamura prodded audiences to question everything laid out before them as truth.

mjphillips@tribune.com

'A Man Vanishes' -- 3 1/2 stars
No MPAA rating
Running time:
2:10; in Japanese with English subtitles
Plays: 3 p.m. Sunday, 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Siskel Film Center.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years

    Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years

    Since 2002 there have been arguably 50 movies about superheroes. Arguably, because genre is tricky; it's often variations on a theme, and some variations are less obvious than others. ("Star Wars," for instance, a bit of a space western, is no one's picture of the western genre.) Oh, also: Because...

  • Where to go to laugh while The Second City undergoes repairs

    Where to go to laugh while The Second City undergoes repairs

    The early-afternoon fire on Aug. 26 that started in the Adobo Grill restaurant next door to The Second City has forced the historic theater to move or cancel all of its performances in their Mainstage, e.t.c and UP Comedy Club theaters until at least Sunday, Sept. 20, which will mark 26 days without...

  • City to offer ticket, tax amnesty program

    City to offer ticket, tax amnesty program

    Faced with pushing through City Council a massive property tax increase and other fees as part of a 2016 budget, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to slightly soften that politically difficult package by offering an amnesty program for people who have unpaid tickets and back taxes they owe the city.

  • O'Hare noise complaints top 2 million for year

    O'Hare noise complaints top 2 million for year

    Complaints about jet noise from O'Hare International Airport topped 2 million during the first seven months of this year — eight times the number filed in all of 2014, the Chicago Department of Aviation said Friday.

  • Second City to move or cancel shows through Sept. 20 after fire

    Second City to move or cancel shows through Sept. 20 after fire

    Second City announced Friday it is moving or canceling all performances scheduled in its Mainstage, e.t.c. Stage and UP Comedy Club theaters through Sept. 20 as the comedy company works to clean up after an extra-alarm fire destroyed its Old Town offices last week, though not the performance spaces.

  • Two new 'Empire' songs released before Season 2 premiere

    Two new 'Empire' songs released before Season 2 premiere

    Fox and Columbia Records this week released two new tracks for the second season of "Empire," a show that's filmed in Chicago.

Comments
Loading
77°