Colourful, wildly stylised, immense captivating fable, including animation, kabuki and butoh and collapsing sets. About a soothsayer at court who was driven to insanity by the murder of his lover and will marry her likeness. And indeed, she’s a fox in human form!
If you see only one Uchida film, this should be it; just make sure to clear space on the floor for your jaw. Uchida’s reputation as a realist or naturalist is severely tested by this wildly stylized, immensely lovable fable. The Japanese characters for ‘Tomu’ can be construed as ‘to spit out or vomit dreams’, and the ever-escalating spillage of visual and narrative invention in The Mad Fox does just that. Its crazy tale about a court fortune teller driven mad by a murder, who ends up marrying his slain lover’s dead ringer, a fox in human form (got that?), incorporates animation, kabuki and butoh, colorist experiments, collapsing sets, animal masks, revolving stages, and scroll compositions – never mind anthropomorphism, class warfare, identical twins, a doll baby that makes electronic mewling sounds, and even playful hints of bestiality. The political import of the fable is readily apparent – this is Uchida, after all – but the film’s extravagant artifice all but swamps it. As the Scope image swims in deepest incarnadine or blooms into Van Gogh yellow, or a close-up holds on the fox bride madly lapping at her husband’s wound, the topsy-turvy world of The Mad Fox leaves one feeling like the character who exclaims: ‘I am in confusion unto madness.’ (JQ) —International Film Festival Rotterdam
Uchida Tomu was born in the city of Okayama, Okayama Prefecture on April 26, 1898 to a family of confectionary makers. After dropping out of high school and spending time as a piano tuner in Yokohama, Uchida worked on and off for the Taisho Katsuei Motion Picture Company founded in May 1920. Nicknamed Tom by his gang, he took the stage name Tomu and became an actor, also serving as an assistant director, assistant cameraman and stagehand. Uchida joined the Makino educational films (Makino Kyoikueiga Seisakusho) in Kyoto, and directed his first film Aa, Konishi Junsa (Police Officer Konishi, 1922) with Kinugasa Teinosuke; however, his innate wanderlust soon had him off traveling around Japan, mixing with the people at the bottom of the social ladder. In 1926 he went to work for Nikkatsu, making his proper directorial debut with Kyoso Mikkakan (Three Days of Competition, 1927). Following his early light comedies, Uchida went on to make the socialist leaning… read more