Wednesday, November 5, 2014

When It Rains #3 - Harikomi (Yoshitaro Nomura, 1958)

Also known in English as The Chase or Stakeout. It earns both titles. Stray Dog would have been a good one as well, and in fact the similarities with Kurosawa's masterwork pile up quickly: procedural structure, young male killer on the lam, old detective/young detective dynamic, devastating summer heat, emphasis on the physicality of an investigation. There's even heavy use of the all-purpose wipes that Kurosawa loved so much and was still employing regularly at this time. But for every apparent parallel, Harikomi frequently takes things down its own path, with a naturalist performance style that often extends to the dramaturgy (modest personal quandaries are prized over weighty philosophical stakes and any exaggerated sense of wisdom transmission between generations) and a thrilling approach to form that blends fluid camerawork/stamps of unity with a rhythmic, clipped editing style, sometimes to vaguely surreal effect - one late sequence with Minoru Oki's undercover protagonist trailing Hideko Takamine's secretive housewife for the nth time (among other things, the movie is a play in variations on the most basic of genre requirements) quickly escalates into a city-to-country down the rabbit hole scenario that reminded me somewhat of the more extreme and absurdist no man's land spinout that comes late in Naruse's Morning's Tree-Lined Street (1936).

The scene that provides the screens above are nothing of that sort, though. One of the shorter and more subtle of the aforementioned numerous trailings, Takamine simply breaks a shoe during a storm and hobbles over under some shelter, as her pursuer is put in the awkward position of unsuspiciously maintaining a pace. As a moment of vulnerability for Takamine, up to that point only little more than a cipher, it represents a bit of an eye opener for Oki, one that takes on significant thematic import (among other things, the movie is a string of male meditations on female unhappiness) - a beautifully wrought exercise in using simple elements to inscribe quiet dramatic value to a wispy relationship.