8.0/10
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24 user 41 critic

Tanin no kao (1966)

Not Rated | | Drama, Sci-Fi | 9 June 1967 (USA)
A businessman with a disfigured face obtains a lifelike mask from his doctor, but the mask starts altering his personality.

Writers:

Kôbô Abe (screenplay), Kôbô Abe (novel)
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2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tatsuya Nakadai ... Mr. Okuyama
Mikijirô Hira ... Psychiatrist
Kyôko Kishida ... Nurse
Miki Irie ... Girl with Scar
Eiji Okada ... The Boss
Minoru Chiaki ... Apartment Superintendent
Hideo Kanze Hideo Kanze ... Male Patient
Kunie Tanaka ... Patient at Mental Hospital
Etsuko Ichihara Etsuko Ichihara ... Yo-Yo Girl
Eiko Muramatsu Eiko Muramatsu ... Secretary
Yoshie Minami Yoshie Minami ... Old Lady
Hisashi Igawa ... Man with Mole
Kakuya Saeki Kakuya Saeki ... Elder Brother of Girl with Scar
Sen Yano Sen Yano ... Mentally Ill Man A
Beverly Maeda Beverly Maeda ... Singer in Bar (as Bibari Maeda)
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Storyline

A businessman facially scarred in a laboratory fire receives psychotherapy from a psychiatrist, and obtains an amazingly lifelike mask from the doctor. Soon after being fitted for the mask, he seduces his wife and succeeds. But his wife claims she was aware all along who he was and believed that both were just masquerading together as most couples usually do in different ways. Strangely enough, his personality seemingly begins to change after he puts on the mask as if the mask has influenced his personality. His new identity does not enable him to reintegrate into society after all. A subplot is inserted in fragments. A good-natured young woman, the right side of whose face is disfigured, has been hurt by others' inquisitive eyes and insults, and has been shunned by men. She asks her older brother, the only man who understands her pain and solitude, to make love to her, hiding from him the intent of killing herself after then. Written by Prion

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Japan

Language:

Japanese

Release Date:

9 June 1967 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

I Have a Stranger's Face See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During its initial release, the film was generally poorly received by critics in Japan and the United States. It also received an extremely limited release in the United States and remained unseen by American audiences for many decades. Modern film critics have warmed to the film and its merits, and now consider it a major example of the quality of Japanese films from the 1960s. See more »

Quotes

Psychiatrist: You're not the only lonely man. Being free always involves being lonely. Just there is a mask you can peel off and another you can not.
See more »

Connections

References The Invisible Man (1933) See more »

Soundtracks

Waltz
(uncredited)
Music by Tôru Takemitsu
Lyrics by Tatsuji Iwabuchi
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Arbitrariness Of Identity
12 January 2008 | by nin-chanSee all my reviews

Teshigahara has never shied away from examining the more unsettling dimensions of human experience. With the trilogy of full-length collaborations with Kobo Abe, Teshigahara encapsulated the Kafkaesque hellishness of quotidian life, the yawning, gaping chasm of emptiness that lies beneath the veneer of stability.

The ubiquitous influence of the French absurdists/existentialists, Kafka and Dostoevsky looms large here- one is reminded most often of Sartre's "No Exit", R.D. Laing's "Knots" and Dostoevsky's "Crime And Punishment". Sartre, Laing and Abe all underline how little autonomy we really have over constituting our own identities- often, we may find that we exist only as beings-for-others, entirely 'encrusted' within personas not of our own making, but assigned to us. For Okuyama and the unnamed scarred woman, they are imprisoned in their vulgar corporeality. Met with revulsion everywhere, they come to accept ugliness as an indelible mark of their being. Trapped within the oppressive confines of flesh, they cannot evade the pity and repugnance that their countenances arouse. It is little wonder that Okuyama becomes self-lacerating and embittered.

Throughout the film, the viewer confronts how precarious identity truly is- the assumption that selves are continuous and linear from day-to-day rests entirely on the visage. The doctor's paroxysm of inspiration in the beer hall affords a glimpse into the anarchic potential of his terrible invention, one that would rend civilization asunder. Indeed, the final epiphany is particularly unnerving- "some masks come off, some don't". We all erect facades, smokescreens of self that we maintain with great effort.

Beneath the epidermis, as Okuyama discovers, is vacuity and nihility. This is likely the explanation for Okuyama's gratuitous, Raskolnikov-esquire acts of crime at the conclusion of the film- faced with the frontierless void of freedom, he desires to be apprehended and branded by society. Integration into society, after all, requires a socially-assigned, unified role, constituted by drivers licenses, serial numbers and criminal records. Without such things, Okuyama is a non-entity.

Aesthetically, the film exhibits all the rigour and poetry of Teshigahara's other work. Cocteau, Ernst and Duchamp, in particular, are notable wellsprings for the film's visual grammar. Literate, expressionistic and profoundly disorienting, this might be my favorite Teshigahara work.


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