Directed by: Shohei Imamura
Starring: Ken Ogata, Mitsuko Baisho, Mayumi Ogawa
“No matter how I fight, I’ll never live to your age, that’s for sure.”
As a side note, before I watched this film, I did very little to no research to what this film was based on, and after watching it I feel like I should have. This isn’t really a thing the film does wrong, but I would highly recommend doing some sort of research as to what Iwao Enokizu did as to not be completely lost, since this is something American media doesn’t ever mention in today’s society.
“After all this time, I still don’t understand why you killed those two women…”
Vengeance is Mine, begins almost anticlimactically by having the lead character, Iwao Enokizu being lead to prison and questioned for his crimes. Understandably at this point the audience is fully on the side of the police, but slowly as the film progresses, we come to know our killer. The film flashes back and, within the first twenty minutes, shows us his vicious killings, before flashing back and showing his childhood during the war and his life on the run today.
Now, personally when a film starts off with two, very realistic killings and then stops immediately in its tracks to show us how we got there, its most of the time jarring. I’m not saying it can’t be done (Fight Club is a great example of this) but the pace shift is so hard that the film nearly breaks in two. Understandably we’re supposed to side with our killer and understand why he makes the decisions he does, but personally I never could decipher why he killed and for what reason.
The film goes out of its way to tell us he is a Christian and I believe the title “Vengeance is Mine” comes from the word of God saying he shall have his vengeance. The film moves along at a slow pace that might be annoying for some viewers but, just when your ready to hit the stop button something interesting happens that keeps you with the movie till the end.
Cinematography is stunning at times, with very long takes being a true highlight to see. At one point the camera starts with our main character getting out of a car, walking down an alley, walking into a hotel, and following him to his room: all in one take. It’s a technical marvel to see and has some great repeatability to it. Acting wise it has a great-restrained performance from Ken Ogata that really shows subtly in the quiet moments of the film.
While I still think Vengeance is Mine is a great film, and deserves more viewers, I do think some may get turned off of it due to its brutal, raw violence and unlikable main character, but its still a film that left me thinking and wondering about the messages left with the audience.
“Can’t say I really understand it myself.”
Presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, Vengeance is Mine really shines for a film that’s over forty years old. Criterion provides extensive detailing as to the restoration process. “This high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit 2K Datacine from a new 35mm low-contrast print made from the original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean. The original monaural soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. AudioCube’s integrated workstation and iZotope RX 3.” The picture itself really is quite clear and has a nice grain patina to go with it. Exterior shots look lush with greenery and colors pop. If I had any complaints it would be some very minor spots of white or black come though at times, but are very minimal.
“We’ll always be separate, even after death.”
Audio is presented in a Japanese LPCM Mono mix (1.0) that is not only enveloping, but also shockingly clear. Criterion has also provided details to the creation of the mix. “The original monaural soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX3.” This is one of the best mono tracks I’ve heard in a very long time. Even though it has a limited soundstage, it never feels small and, in fact, feels bigger than it actually is. Dialogue is crisp and clear and folly is exceptional. Criterion should do every sound mix.
Packaging an Bonus Features
“The professor kept me up all night.”
Criterion has always provided the very highest of quality in not only video and audio, but also packaging and cover art. The cover art for this release features Iwao on the cover along with his real mug shots above him; a unique cover that is much better than the original release. Bonus features for this release are rather good, but are limited based on the production of the film. A highlight for the bonus is an eleven minute long interview with the director Shohei Imamura before his death, discussing the film. Also included is a great commentary from critic and filmmaker Tony Rayns which almost covers every aspect from the behind the scenes of the film. Also included is a teaser, a trailer and a thirty-two page booklet featuring another interview with the director, the original killings, and the differences between the real life killings and the film. Also included are technical credits for this release.
Overall (not an average)
“He’s probably pissed off at me for drinking on the job.”
Vengeance is Mine is at times, a very uncomfortable watch, it certainly made my mom walk out. It’s still a film that deserves recognition and is a technical marvel to this day. Criterions restoration of video and audio quality is really unbelievable making them still the very best in the home format for releases.