The Mystery of Rampo (Rampo, 1994)
100 mins, color, Japanese (English subtitles)
My little brain is on fire. The whirlwind of sublime images and evocative music was such an assault on my senses, that I was overwhelmed. RAMPO is a mesmerizing experience, even if I am still not sure what I just witnessed. The journey through the mysteries of memory, creativity, and passion is mystifying like the subject matter it treats.
When his latest controversial novel is rejected by the censors for portraying a woman, who kills her husband by letting him suffocate in a chest, the wounded mystery writer Rampo (Naoto Takenaka) bridges the gap between physical and literary reality to find that he has given life to his own creation: the gracious Shizuko (Michiko Hada). But then the dreamscapes blur and his real-life experiences become more and more entangled with the story he furiously continues to spin. As Rampo assumes his alter ego, Detective Akechi (Masahiro Motoki), he enters the bizarre world of Marquis Ogawara (Mikijiro Hira), where Shizuko exists only to reflect and refract the Marquis' obsessions. The sadness of Shizuko is so tangible, I could feel my stomach get limp.
I have to give up trying to describe this film. If it was possible to do it, Okuyama would not have filmed it. I feel compelled to say that Michiko Hada is one of the most incredible actresses I have ever seen. She frightens me, makes me want to cry, then makes me happy I was born a man. Her surreal beauty takes her through successively being a killer, victim, a figment of imagination, a desperate lover, a dreamer, and a woman resigned to a fate of someone else's doing. Such a strong presence played with such delicate touch that I had the feeling that if I did not pay close attention, I would miss her elusive qualities. Such a rarity... (she also stole the show in the Taiwanese FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI.)
May 21, 2001. BLS