Judge Paul Pritchard once made himself vanish, but nobody saw it.
Our review of A Man Vanishes, published January 10th, 2013, is also available.
Though the way in which director Shohei Imamura blends fiction and reality should be commended, his 1967 production, A Man Vanishes (Region 2), is still a difficult film to fully embrace.
The film opens with a film crew investigating the disappearance of Tadashi Oshima, a businessman who has not been seen for two years. Through interviews with his family and friends, A Man Vanishes begins to paint a picture of Tadashi. We learn that he was engaged to be married before his disappearance and was responsible for embezzling a large amount of money from his company. We also are alerted to the possibility of a clandestine relationship that resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. The crew's efforts to learn about their subject are truly exhaustive, even going so far as to have a taxi driver recreate a journey Tadashi had taken two years earlier. Each subsequent interview reveals new and sometimes conflicting information. Focused, as it is, with the interview footage obtained, the first 75 minutes of A Man Vanishes ultimately gets us no closer to really knowing the truth, nor finding Tadashi. This lack of progress, not to mention the feeling of being bogged down with so much (often pointless) information, proves an effective exercise in examining the futility of finding missing persons, but isn't necessarily an engrossing film.
Perhaps aware of the lack of direction his film is taking, Imamura alters the course of A Man Vanishes during the second half of the movie. Turning the focus more towards Tadeshi's finacee, Yoshie, the picture begins to question her actions—in particular the way she presents herself in front of the camera, and her relationship with the actor leading the investigation, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi. This in turn offers a new spin on Tadeshi's disappearance, but ultimately still fails to engage the viewer due to its insistence on obtaining small and pointless nuggets of information on its subjects.
Imamura's film does well in capturing the tangled relationships that surround Tadeshi, offering multiple motives for his disappearance, along with an insight into how each of the persons affected has coped. The scenes with his mother, along with an introduction of the occult to proceedings, undoubtedly add interest. It's hard to shake the feeling that the film is just running around in circles, and come the end we are no richer for having taken the journey. Even the final reveal does little to make up for the lengthy running time. A film that is more interesting to discuss than it is to watch, A Man Vanishes is a curio, and nothing more.
The discs 1.37:1 black-and-white transfer suffers in part due to the quality of the print, which has notable damage to it. The picture is reasonably sharp, though lacks a great deal of fine detail. Grain is evident (which shouldn't be seen as a negative), while black levels remain good. The mono soundtrack is made up of dialogue for the most part, with only occasional hints of a score. There are issues with the synchronization of the audio and video at numerous points throughout the film. However, as is stated before the movie starts, this is not an issue with the DVD itself.
The DVD includes a video interview with film scholar Tony Rayns, who offers an informative insight into Imamura's work. There is also an interview with Imamura, conducted by his son, Daisuke Tengan (who wrote the screenplay for Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins). The original trailer is also included on the disc. Finally, the DVD comes complete with a thirty-six-page booklet, featuring essays on Imamura's film, along with the director's own recollections on A Man Vanishes.
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