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Pygmy

Former visual and performance artist Akio Tada blends a noirish, conventional gangster pic with more outre narrative elements in this well-told tale of a decent man sucked into a whirlpool of amorality. In the movie's second half, the offbeat inserts are too densely packed and distracting, but they add a freshness all the same to this serviceable arthouse entry, whose plot strikes an able balance between plausibility and surprise.

Former visual and performance artist Akio Tada blends a noirish, conventional gangster pic with more outre narrative elements in this well-told tale of a decent man sucked into a whirlpool of amorality. In the movie’s second half, the offbeat inserts are too densely packed and distracting, but they add a freshness all the same to this serviceable arthouse entry, whose plot strikes an able balance between plausibility and surprise.

Main plot has Hasegawa (Kyoji Uda), a handsome architect in his prime, lured by Russian g.f. Tanya (Margaret Haninel) into a scheme involving a robbery to get a corrupt politician off the hook over a threatened bribery charge. The fix goes wrong, with a fat kid decoy murdered by the older, lizardly Boss (Norimitsu Yoshiwara), and the architect realizes he’s trapped in the role of the fall guy. Tanya, it turns out, used to be Boss’ lover, and is in cahoots with him in the hope he’ll return their son, whom he abducted some years earlier. What Tanya doesn’t know is that the kid is already dead.

Tada’s inserts, which tend toward the allegorical, are amusing with a bitter twist. Opening sequence has a pair of bug marionettes telling their son he’s different from them — he’s green and they’re black — but they quickly recant when the little one starts howling. Title anecdote tells how a pygmy who wanted to be the same as everyone else put on some high heels, fell down a manhole, and died.

Tech credits are skillful.

Pygmy

(JAPANESE)

Production: A Minasquer Film production. Directed by Akio Tada. Screenplay, Hisaya Wakamori.

Crew: Camera (color), Keizo Shimada; editor, Masahiro Matsumura; music, Koki Fujita; art direction, Yasuhiro Murakami; costume design, Ayako Terasaki; sound, Yukikazu Asanuma. Reviewed at Viennale Festival, Vienna, Oct. 20, 1995. Running time: 82 MIN.

With: With: Norimitsu Yoshiwara, Kyoji Uda, Margaret Haninel, Naki Koyama.

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