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178 Ratings

A Man Vanishes

Ningen Johatsu

Directed by Shôhei Imamura
Japan, 1967


What at first purports to be a documentary on the missing person problem in Japan develops into a brilliant illustration of the absurdity of “objective cinema.” Using only a small crew and no cast as such, it follows up on one of hundreds of missing persons reports filed with the police.

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A Man Vanishes Directed by Shôhei Imamura
Not content to give up the chase, Imamura and his crew dig deeper into their quarry’s whereabouts, backtracking and retreating until conventional theorizing and methodology begin to lose their shape entirely. Every breakthrough leads to a tangent, and countless tangents turn into dead ends: what may have happened, and what is actually happening, don’t always sync up. Or, if they do, it’s a hair too convenient for comfort.
January 27, 2018
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Imamura himself seems to get bored with his subject after a while, turning from Oshima’s disappearance to investigate Yoshie instead… Then Imamura orders his crew to strike the set and the film makes a 180-degree turn, the walls that had surrounded the cast falling away as the camera pulls back to reveal a soundstage. That literal breach of the fourth wall signals the beginning of a surrealistic ending that straddles the border between fact and fiction.
November 16, 2012
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As the search for Oshima extends to those who scarcely seem to know him — the location shifting from perfectly framed cramped interiors to dense city scenes and expansive country landscapes — “A Man Vanishes” kinks this way and that, growing knottier and more fascinating.
November 14, 2012
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