Known mostly in the West for his screenplays that went on to become some of Koji Wakamatsu's and Nagisa Oshima's masterpieces, Masao Adachi proves with his 1969 film AKA Serial Killer that he's just as capable a director as a screenwriter.
As you can guess from the title the film probes a common theme of the Japanese New Wave, identity and how one is formed, like James Benning's Landscape Suicide, there's an exploration into the habitat of someone who's been compelled to murder another. The film's images, which at first seem like the kind of images of everyday life that Chris Marker would use to coincide with his essayist narration, are played mostly without words. What narration there is, is very little and precise, facts about the serial killer's life and often talking about locations he's came across that the camera hasn't yet explored, giving the audience more time to focus on the images alone and associate them in whichever way they choose, they could be images that the main character himself has seen during his lifetime or just the continuation of life ignorant of its alienated individuals. To me these images show the different locations and phases of his life all happening at the same time, they show other people at the same locations, possibly doing the same activities, but not necessarily going through the same transformations, everyone is having their identity and personality formed in unique ways, sometimes similar to our main character's and at other times in a completely different way, sometimes formed by visible forces like our environment and at other times forces that we can't physically see. The film does have a score which is quite erratic, ranging from long pauses to chaotic free form jazz, one particular example of the latter is played over images of children making their way to school, the brass sounds create this intimidating military feeling that taints the images of the pupils, it's no coincidence this sequence finds itself proceeding a section of narration that revealed our main character ran away from school multiple times.
Masao Adachi instills his film with an ability to explore how this specific identity was bred, which forces, visible or invisible, formed it, and how it was ultimately summed up by a system that was disinterested in discovering every possibility for its creation. With this last exploration is a further questioning of how we ourselves are seen by the society we're born into, live for, and support, similar to the yakuza in many Nikkatsu Action films, there are questions of how easily replaceable those at the bottom are and how much of their loyalty isn't reciprocated. This was my first foray into Adachi's directed work and it's left me hungry for more, however I can only sit and wait for the majority are either unreleased or without subtitles. Hopefully with the resurgence of this icon, being the subject of two acclaimed French documentaries in the last several years, we can expect his films to receive some more than deserved affection from the DVD labels over here.
Nice list, I've had a great time going through Godard's work and now that I've almost finished his early phase I'm really looking forward to seeing more of his transitions.
I've heard some incredible things about his segment of 3X3D, mostly from Craig Keller's twitter page. Scroll down to 18 May twitter.com/evillights