Violence at Noon Reviews
Sorry to say that I didn't enjoy this one as much as I hoped. Much of the film's renown comes from its quick editing -- over 2,000 shots in all, according to whoever had the patience to count. But in this age of hyperactive, high-tech thrillers, the cuts aren't as jarring as they would have been in 1966. At this point, what's more notable is that no other Oshima movie is cut this way and, in fact, he has films such as "The Ceremony" that rely on unusually *long* shots.
"Violence at High Noon" opens with an intense, nine-minute sequence of a home invasion that leads to one woman being raped and another being murdered (both crimes occur off-camera -- no need to shield your eyes). From there, much of the story occurs in flashback. The attacker, Eisuke, is his victim's former lover. He has assaulted numerous women, and the police are on his trail. He is married to Matsuko, but the two have been apart due to his outlaw lifestyle. The raped woman, Shino, also was briefly married to Genji, a man who committed suicide for weakly defined reasons. Previously, Genji was involved with Matsuko too. All four characters once worked together in some failed, agricultural commune, but whatever insinuations Oshima is making about organized youth in Japan (a dominant concern of his work) are subordinate to the more specific tale of a crime spree.
Really, the above covers most of the story -- the film gives background more than it advances a plot. The script does not focus on Eisuke's mayhem but rather the reactions of Shino and Matsuko. Both women know he is the culprit whom the police seek, but wrestle with their consciences about whether to report him or not.
Kei Sato and Saeda Kawaguchi are excellent as Eisuke and Shino and they need to be, since so many harsh closeups force them to act with their faces alone. Akiko Koyama (Matsuko) is also quite good with her edgy air of smiling distress, but has a less demanding role.
I anticipated a more shocking, flamboyant film -- perhaps with a virtuoso, lightning sequence that did for rape what the shower scene of "Psycho" did for murder. "Violence at High Noon" does not supply this, but it does dig into some interesting, volatile characters.
The late Kei Sato stars as the High Noon Attacker, a farmer who, as flashbacks tell us, has devolved into a rapist and a murderer because of the misguided affections of a local school-teacher and a young, comely maid, both of who know they shouldn't be hiding the man's identity from the police, but that's the nature of psycho-sexual obsession. As the film plunges like a speeding train towards it's disturbing conclusion, Sato and the psychology of a murderer become less prevalent than the budding frustrations and duel psyches of the women, who blend in a "Persona"-esque nightmare.
Oshima keeps us guessing as to why the murderer is as he is, and why these two women are so drawn to him (with both hate, and especially, lust), with a narrative that routinely shifts back and forth in time with little indication or physical association for clues, but it's all part of a fascinating cinematic fabric, confusing and exhilarating.
[font=Century Gothic]"Violence at Noon" is a beautifully photographed, well-edited and potentially provocative movie that simply left me cold. None of these characters can escape their past with Matsuko literally being haunted by the ghost of Genji(Rokko Toura) who once had a chance to pursue a successful political career before committing suicide. In fact, starting with Matsuko's parents after a flood destroys their farm, there is much talk of suicide in the movie, but little of the accompanying hopelessness which would normally lead to such a drastic and ultimate action. Yes, being lonely can be a hard thing to endure but it is not the end of the world by any means.[/font]