Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Face of Another

Based on the novel by Kobo Abe, Tanin no kao (The Face of Another) is the story of an engineer whose face is burnt due to an accident at work as he is given a new face that would become troubling. Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara and written by Abe, the film is an exploration of identity where a man is given a new face but would deal with what happened to him and the new face he’s given. Starring Tatsuya Nakadai, Machiko Kyo, and Kyoko Kishida. Tanin no kao is a chilling yet rapturous film from Hiroshi Teshigahara.

The film follows a man who is given a new face following an accident that left his face burned at work where he deals with the surgery and the changes his new mask gives him. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it is more about a man dealing with what happened to him and a chance to re-enter society only to feel more of an outcast. Kobo Abe’s screenplay doesn’t have much of a plot as it’s more of a character study on its protagonist Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai) who spends much of the first act either at his home with his wife (Machiko Kyo) or talking to Dr. Hira (Mikijiro Hira) who has been experimenting with creating new skin as he believes he could help Okuyama but is concerned about the Okuyama’s state of mind. The film’s second act would be about the mask based on another man’s face that Okuyama would wear but also recollections of a film he saw that is about a scarred girl (Miki Irie) who works with World War II veterans and is concerned about the idea of another war emerging. That subplot would also play into Okuyama’s concerns about his look when he was covered in bandages as he would go into a slow descent of intrigue and deceit into its third act.

Hiroshi Teshigahara’s direction does bear elements of style in its visuals yet much of the compositions that he creates are straightforward. Shot largely in Tokyo, Teshigahara’s direction play into this air of intrigue throughout the drama as it relates to Okuyama’s visits with Dr. Hira as he works in a room that is surreal in its surroundings as if the man himself is offbeat. The scenes in that film are either presented in a wide shot or in a medium shot with some striking compositions to play into Okuyama trying to get himself back in the world. Notably as he would walk around Tokyo in his bandaged state and later wearing the new face that he’s given where much of Teshigahara’s direction is straightforward yet showcases this air of detachment that would occur in Okuyama’s mind. The element of surrealism doesn’t just play into the office and rooms of Dr. Hira but also in the film that Okuyama saw about the scarred girl and her own journey that included her time with her brother (Kakuya Saeki) that would include close-ups of her face.

Teshigahara also maintains a low-key approach to the suspense during its second act as it relates to Okuyama living in an apartment where the superintendent’s daughter (Etsuko Ichihara) believes there is something weird about him. Even as Okuyama starts to go into places in his new mask that he has to wear for 12 hours as he ponders if those who know him recognize him or know anything about him. Its third act would play into Okuyama taking advantage of his new identity but also play into his descent into the air of immorality that would parallel with the journey of the scarred girl feeling lost over her own place in the world. Even as the film would have Teshigahara use surrealism to play into this dark world that Okuyama and Dr. Hira would create as the latter becomes concerned over what he created while the former would relish in his new discovery of immorality. Overall, Teshigahara crafts a haunting yet engrossing film about a man who gets a new face that would later shape his identity and state of mind.

Cinematographer Hiroshi Segawa does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its usage of natural lighting for scenes in the day as well as some vibrant and eerie textures in the lighting courtesy of Mitsuo Kume. Editor Yoshi Sughihara does excellent work with the editing as it has some unique rhythmic cuts including a few jump-cuts to play into the drama and surrealist moments of the film. Art directors Masao Yamazaki and Arata Isozaki, with set decorator Kenichiro Yamamoto, do amazing work with the look of the apartments that Okuyama lived in as well as the place that Dr. Hira works at.

Costume designer Tamiko Moriya does terrific work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with the clothes the characters wear. The makeup work of Tachiro Akiyama does fantastic work with the look of the mask and its design as well as the scar on the girl in the story within the film. The sound work of Junosuke Okuyama is superb for its low-key approach to sound as well as capture sound in its natural settings. The film’s music by Toru Takemitsu is incredible for its mixture of dense and low-sounding percussive textures to play into the mystery and drama along with a more traditional orchestral-based score for the story within the film.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles and performances from Eiko Muramatsu as a secretary at the place where Okuyama worked at, Eiji Okada as Okuyama’s boss, Hisashi Igawa as a man with the mole on his face who is paid money to have his face used as the prototype for the mask that Okuyama wears, Kunie Tanaka as a mental hospital patient, Minoru Chiaki as the building superintendent who gives Okuyama an apartment to live in, Etsuko Ichihara as the superintendent’s daughter who likes to play with yo-yos, Kakuya Saeki as the scarred girl’s brother, and Miki Irie in a terrific performance as the scarred girl who deals with her deformity and worries about the world believing that Japan is going to war again. Kyoko Kishida is fantastic as the nurse who aids Dr. Hira in the surgery as she is sort of the film’s conscience as she raises concern about what Dr. Hira is doing as well as being aware that his mysterious wife is watching them.

Machiko Kyo is excellent as Okuyama’s wife who would take care of him for much of the first act as she is concerned with what is happening to him as she doesn’t appear for the second act only to re-emerge later in the third where she would encounter her husband in his new identity. Mikijiro Hira is brilliant as Dr. Hira as a surgeon who performs the surgery as he is also a psychologist as he tries to help Okuyama with his new identity but also deal with his own actions as he becomes conflicted in his accomplishments and the drawbacks it might bring. Finally, there’s Tatsuya Nakadai in a phenomenal performance as Okuyama as an engineer whose face is burned by an accident at his job as he would get a new mask as it’s an eerie performance from Nakadai when he’s covered in bandages while the mask he would put on would add a layer of discomfort into his performance as someone that starts to descend into madness.

Tanin no kao is a spectacular film from Hiroshi Teshigahara that features an incredible leading performance from Tatsuya Nakadai. Along with its ravishing visuals, top-notch ensemble cast, Toru Takemitsu’s intoxicating music score, and study of identity, it’s a film that explore a man trying to get a new face only to lose aspects of himself while delving into surreal moments that play into his descent into madness. In the end, Tanin no kao is a sensational film from Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Hiroshi Teshigahara Films: Pitfall - Woman in the Dunes - (The Man Without a Map) – (Summer Soldiers) – Antonio Gaudi - (Rikyu) – (Princess Goh)

© thevoid99 2019

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