Tanin no kao | 他人の顔 | The Face of Another
DIRECTOR: Hiroshi Teshigahara | WRITER: Kôbô Abe | CAST: Tatsuya Nakadai, Mikijirô Hira, Kyôko Kishida, Miki Irie, Eiji Okada, Minoru Chiaki | Japan
The Face of Another is apparently Hiroshi Teshigahara’s sequel to Woman in the Dunes; I doubt familiarity with that movie would have enhanced my enjoyment of this film in the slightest. A managerial-level engineer is horribly scarred in a careless industrial accident and finds his current literally faceless existence barely tolerable, so he takes his shrink up on an offer to undergo a mask/removable implant fitted (it’s as murky as it sounds). Was he “himself” without a face? With this new ersatz face will he be someone else? Etc. Loads of deep thoughts about identity, personae, and the like. I thought the face/mask made the lead character look like a prissy queen à la Carmen Ghia (Andreas Voutsinas) in The Producers, and when he hangs out with his hunky shrink at a kitschy Germanophile Tokyo beer hall named “München” I thought we were headed into The Damned-land. Early 1960s design with abstract sets, lots of kooky tilted camera angles, still photography, muted ambient sound, atonal Takemitsu score, scenes repeated almost exactly but with one variable different, and all the rest. The movie feels like a bad episode of The Twilight Zone that was translated into Japanese and stretched out to over two hours.