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Rampo (1994)

R  |   |  Drama, Mystery  |  19 May 1995 (USA)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 497 users  
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Edogawa Rampo is a writer whose latest work is censored by the government, deemed too disturbing and injurious to the public to be allowed to be published. However, after burning his drafts... See full summary »

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Title: Rampo (1994)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Michiko Hada ...
...
Masashi Yokomizo
Mikijirô Hira ...
Marquis Ogawara
Shirô Sano ...
Officer
Ittoku Kishibe ...
Cafe owner
Nekohachi Edoya ...
Antique shop owner
Jun'ichi Takagi ...
Fujimori
Charlie Yutani ...
Driver
...
House wife / Head of maid
...
Mademoiselle
...
Big Star
Kinji Fukasaku ...
Film Director
...
Movie Actor
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Storyline

Edogawa Rampo is a writer whose latest work is censored by the government, deemed too disturbing and injurious to the public to be allowed to be published. However, after burning his drafts, his publisher shows him a newspaper with an account of events just like his forbidden story. As the film progresses, fantasy and reality intermingle in a tale that draws heavily on influences from Poe and Stoker's Dracula. The film's strongly Expressionistic direction skillfully combines a variety of media (animation, computer-generated imagery, grainy black-and-white fast film stock, color negatives) for artistic effect. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

So provocative the censors banned it, so powerful it came true.

Genres:

Drama | Mystery

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for images of bizarre sexuality
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

19 May 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Mystery of Rampo  »

Box Office

Gross:

$305,434 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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User Reviews

Elegance and Decadence beneath a brilliant moon
15 March 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Does this film have anything to say? Maybe. It's a speculative biopic in the vein of Wim Wenders' "Hammett" or Paul Schrader's "Mishima" about the Japanese author Edogawa Rampo (Japanese for "Edgar Allan Poe", of which he was Japan's equivalent). Set in the late 1920s at the beginning of the Showa Era in Japan, the film opens with Rampo's latest book, about a woman who has murdered her husband by allowing him to suffocate in a wooden chest, being banned by Government censors. Remarkably, an item appears in the newspaper the details of which are nearly identical to those in Rampo's novel (which the real-life woman could not have read, as it was banned). Rampo seeks this woman and then devises a handsome young alter ego to track her. Midway into the film, the narrative fissions and reality merges with Rampo's imagination.

The fact that the material shared by Rampo's novel and the newspaper's story was deemed dangerous as fiction (the censor declares the story "likely to be detrimental to public morale") yet freely published as nonfiction is critical of the double standard that pardons journalism while penalizing art and literature. Rampo's need to write such a novel and then pursue this woman beyond the confines of reality, allowing her to lock his alter ego in the chest, suggests the author's mortal fear of women, as when he ultimately surrenders to her, the narrative altogether cracks and disintegrates (quite literally). In the manner that Rampo wants to be possessed by women, but only on his own terms -- that is, within the confines of his literature -- the movie is a variation on, maybe the flip side of, 'Vertigo.'

Not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but the question of whether the film has anything more to say and what it has to say is irrelevant. There's a tendency to look at a film like this and dismiss it as empty (especially considering some of the more socially 'relevant' and blistering films to come from Japan, China and Hong Kong in recent years), but that's missing the point. "The Mystery of Rampo" is unquestionably one of the most beautiful films I've seen, the cinematic equivalent of a midnight float down the Seine under a full moon. The musical score by Akira Senju is lonely, elegant, full of intrigue, awash in moonlight, and cozy like the dark, wet corners of cobblestone streets after a rainfall. The period is evoked gorgeously, with rich blue carpets and curtains of red velvet, dusty libraries and deserted streets. Most visible light sources are either streetlights, candles, or the moon. The moon is remarkably prominent here, as everything seems bathed in its light. Moonlight reflects off characters' As a sort of prologue illustrating the content of Rampo's book, the film begins with an animated segment mostly in watercolors, which casts a spell of serenity over the film. It's not quite a sinister serenity, but an unsettling one, like a pleasant nightmare. It's how you feel when you awake unexpectedly at midnight to a dark, empty house.

There's also an unforgettable segment involving a deranged marquis who, wearing women's clothing and makeup (dressed as his mother), leads the mysterious femme fatale to a projection room in his castle where he proceeds to undress her, bind her, and project a stag film onto her naked body. Everything in this second half of the film is unusually appropriate to the ambiance of this film, even the placement of the castle near the edge of a cliff.

Courtesy of cinematographer Yasushi Sasakibara and composer Akira Senju, this is an elegant, visually luxurious film, part of whose musical theme is rendered by a music box at various points.


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