18 March 2005 | frankgaipa
Feels like Flannery O'Connor: undeniable guilt tempered by mysterious, nearly beyond belief redemption.
I absolutely need subtitles and I'm too lazy to check the Kanji on this one, but my old Kenkyusha's Japanese-English, for this film's original title, Usugesho, gives "light make-up," not the less relevant English title "Tracked." If so, then Gosha used his title to point up not the slow-motion years-long chase, but a couple of scenes involving makeup. Chie, thinking to protect her damaged savior, blackens Sakane's eyebrows, and in an inexplicable, apparently sexless scene, nonetheless unsettling to anyone who's lately seen The Woodsman or Hitchcock's Vertigo, Sakane makes up a very little girl. This is a film about faces, named not Kao (face) but Usugesho (makeup): put-on, ephemeral, changeable face. Or, how changeable? Someone mistakes Sakane's eyebrow paint for tattoos.
In another film I've written about lately here, Kichiku (1978), Ken Ogata plays the abusive father as a lanky goofy fool, looks something like languid Roger Miller (song: "King of the Road"), or think the Honeymooners' Ed Norton or Sienfeld's Kramer. Here he appears stockier. Clean shaven in the lethal flashbacks he's pure hedonism, mindless seeker of physical pleasure. At the same time, he's physically dangerous, a pleasure seeker with all too much strength. Gosha allows us no hint of exculpatory back story. On the run, mustachioed in thick-rimmed glasses and an ever-present neck cloth to hide a suicide scar, he looks like Charles Bronson, a bashful Charles Bronson, a loner as befits the situation. Something unavailable to other men, his bosses, coworkers, and others, has infused him with a cool, a wisdom, a superiority devoid of vanity. It seems almost a Zen thing. Is this state the providence of his crimes, of his suicide? Must one destroy to achieve it? Is it anything like a military vet's stoicism? At once it enables him to defend against thugs a cowering, mawkishly grateful coworker and attracts the broken, generous Chie.
Chie, who painted Sakane's face, will say eventually, "Men are illusions." The detective who retired from the chase wonders to the detective still on it what relation Sakane eight years on can possibly bear to the Sakane who committed the crimes.
The film's highly syncopated. Cuts between the two Sakanes are abrupt, disorienting. Most viewers will take seconds or minutes to realize which past they are in. Now and then, maybe most curiously in the makeup scene with the little girl, the soundtrack breaks to a raw tango, a wailing bandoleon.
In the end all that matters here, all that's likely to hold in my memory or yours, is two faces, Sakane's and Chie's. Chie's has a radiance too brilliant to endure.