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I recall the name of neither, can't find them in my films-seen list or IMDb. Maybe neither title includes the critical R word. Both must be at least twenty years gone. But somewhere, both Japanese yet likely unrelated, exist a short and a feature each about a man running.
In the short, which played at the Pacific Film Archive or San Francisco International Film Festival, he seems an exerciser barely holding to conversation pace. Apparently random individuals, just, if I recall, from curiosity, no other motive, run up along side, chat awhile, then drop away. Some just chat. Others ask mildly challenging "why" questions. Some seem defeated, whether physically or rhetorically. Some aren't defeated, but fall away, or behind, all the same. Within the frame of the film, we don't see the runner begin or finish. There's no before the run or after. He never pauses.
I'm hazier about the feature. It probably played San Francisco's Roxie. But watching it I remembered the short. The feature took place all or mostly at night. It was urban, streets not paths. The sun may have risen, but late. There may have been a crime or the red herring suggestion of one. Maybe a woman came or went. I don't think the key movement was a chase. He wasn't fleeing. His momentum seemed of and for itself, no from or toward. Only the runner knew why run and he never said. There's a slim chance I'm misremembering a drive or a cycle ride as a run, but it still brought to mind that short. In either case I may be scripting in memory works superior to the originals, but I still credit them.
In 17-sai no fûkei - shônen wa nani o mita no ka, translated for the US as Cycling Chronicles: Landscapes the Boy Saw, an older teen travels by bicycle northward from near Tokyo, I think along the Sea of Japan since the surf is always to his left. In the film, unless I missed it, he has no name. He's nearly as anonymous as the runner in that short. His pace is frantic, but with no sense of going anywhere. His true-crime surfaces gradually -- he killed his mother brutally, bloodily -- but he seems not to be fleeing. He's just going, just moving, not Tokyo northward but moment to moment, one curve to the next. His exhilaration -- with the sounds of surf and wind, the peel of rubber, the ever changing ribbon of road -- is tangible and links him to us. All these things are to him pretty much what they'd be to you or me on the same road achieving the same forward momentum. Recently Clair Denis in L'Intrus sent her aging monster Trebor down a forested asphalt road on a racing bike to tie him by his sensations to us. But this boy is no monster. Encounters with a fisherman and WWII vet humanize him further, as he and we equally listen to their stories. The stories hardly matter, though in themselves they do matter. What's important is we and the murderer "rub shoulders" to sit and learn, just as we would have had there been no murder in the film or in fact. The final encounter, with a Korean woman after a broken bicycle chain in way too much snow has nearly doomed his goalless mission, tests and proves his humanity again.
I don't want to go too much farther in guessing Wakamatsu's intentions. The system here allows us too little of his output. Of the three available, only a dubbed mess, The Notorious Concubines, seems vaguely pinku. The other two, Go, Go, Second-Time Virgin and Ecstasy of Angels, are anything but. Go, Go is a claustrophobic masterpiece set on a black-and-white rooftop.
I can't empathize with murder, but easily imagine plowing through the air, not away from but after, whatever disaster. The boy is us. The death penalty's no issue, but the boy should not die. He is and is not the murderer, did and did not murder. He's new, because the moment and sensations are new. As Octavia Butler says in her pair of parables, "The only lasting truth is change."
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