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on 27 April 2006
I saw this film recently on a Hong Kong Region 3 DVD. It is simply terrific. For once we get a fleshed out, plausible serial-killer to contemplate. The direction is taut and the acting is first-rate. I actually think Imamura is an overrated director (I didn't care much for 'The Eel' and 'Ballad of Narayama' is good but not great). But if he had made more films of this standard he would truly deserve a place amongst the first rank of film directors. The Eureka Masters of Cinema series is terrific and so I intend to upgrade to their edition very soon.
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on 18 January 2015
Masterful cinema.
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on 16 November 2005
This is a great film and undoubtedly Imamura's best. The cinematography, characterisations and intricate plot development are all superb. For those who know his later films, look out for a number of themes and tropes that he recycled, with a more surrealistic treatment, in 'The Eel'. While I liked the latter, it lacks the seriousness and sharpness of 'Vengeance is Mine'. 'Vengeance' has all the sheer impact of a Takashi Miike film such as 'Audition', while maintaining Imamura's well-known early scrupulous attention to detail and documentary style. Having been extremely disappionted by the insipid 'Roberto Succo', Imamura's serial killer Iwao combined the almot pathetic banality of Kieslowki's boy from 'A Short Film about Killing' with the blank menace of Kiyoshi Kurasawa's stranger in 'Cure'. Full marks all round, the best film I have seen in ages!
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on 13 May 2012
I saw this on Sky Arts 2. I read fully all the reviews here and took the main points in hand.

Firstly, there are some "foreign" films and certain directors that either have superb translators/subtitlers and/or use/write excellent scripts, because they read perfectly and intelligently. Ingmar Bergman is one. I haven't seen a Shohei Imamura film before so I don't know about how his others rate in this respect.

Vengeance Is Mine's script bristles with language and conversation that real people use, in this case, either just routine, lazy small talk that most of us use just to get by or some of the things that our lead, murderer Iwao Enokizu (played by Ken Ogata) says when he so off-handedly explains his actions or says to his family and victims.

I then looked at the film from a Japanese audience's stance and then translated that back to something we'd watch about any of our select convicted murderers. Aside of it being in Japanese and set and made there, its style is very Western, or universal. Therefore, to our eyes, once we get over (if we actually can) the shock of this individual's appalling crimes and the way he lived and manipulated others, then this is actually a very straightforward film and one that's extremely well made.

This way, the story and the characters make the film, the director directs impartially and we are left with everything; for us to think about and make our own minds about. This might seem an easy thing for a film to accomplish, but I'm sure it's not so easy.

Yes, its narrative jumps but unless one is actually studying the case's history, to follow the story, this is actually of less importance. Yes, it's long too and sometimes slow and often appears glum and drab, but this isn't Mamma Mia and so to match its subject, glum and drab is fine.

I recorded the movie and will need to see it again. My score may go up to five stars after that, in which case I'll amend my review but it certainly won't go below the four I'm awarding.
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on 20 August 2008
I know this film is raved about worldwide, but I don't see what's so great about it. What's taken as the director's objectivity seems to me to be because he doesn't know what to do with the material before him. The film has a few jumps in time that's unnecessary (mostly it follows the killer's life while on the run, but throughout there's scenes from after he's apprehended); its psychological explanations are few and far between; the occasional humour disrupts the uniform bleakness of the film; and the references to Japan's war-era militarism are heavyhanded.
The film does a good job of showing how actual violence is an unchoreographed mess, it ably shows the underside of the Japanese middle class dream, and it does a great job in revealing that family bonds can be as much about self-interest as love and affection. But all in all in my opinion this should have been a much better film.
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VINE VOICEon 20 November 2005
I was really disappointed in this film, having seen many recommendations. I think that the main problem was that the directors "masterful attention to detail" meant that some bits went so slowly that it became maddening. These lacunas were rarely relieved by anything but views of grey/brown interiors. Despite some attempt to bring in background, I never came to see the really nasty central character as anything but randomly horrible. The police were just a homogenous blur of grey suits. Only the father and wife of the killer had any real character, but this mainly comprised of sitting around looking at each other gloomily.
So, maybe the film is indeed a work of genius, but I missed it if it is. So I'd only recommend it if you are very attuned to this sort of thing.
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