This essay was written between 1999 and 2001 for Movie Mutations: The Changing Face of World Cinephilia, a 2003 collection I coedited with Adrian Martin and wrote (or, more often, cowrote) many pieces for. This particular piece was part of a section of the book entitled “Two Auteurs: Masumura and Hawks” that I collaborated on with the great Japanese film critic Shigehiko Hasumi, which also included two dialogues with him and a lengthy essay by him about Howard Hawks. — J.R.
To appropriate one of the categories of Andrew Sarris’ The American Cinema, Yasuzo Masumura (1924-1986) is a “subject for further research”. My first encounter with his work was almost thirty years ago in Paris, where his Love For an Idiot (Chijin no ai, 1967), an updated adaptation of Junichiro Tanizaki’s 1924 novel Naomi, was playing under the title La chatte japonaise. (As I would discover much later, there are two other excellent Tanizaki adaptations in his oeuvre -– Manji [Swastika, 1964] and Tattoo [Irezumi, 1966].) Spurred by a twelve page spread in the October 1970 issue of Cahiers du cinéma –- perhaps the most extensive critical recognition he’s received to date in the West -– I found myself both shocked and intrigued by this depiction of the erotic delirium of a middle-aged factory worker over the much younger wife he trains, marries and loses.… Read more »