Screenplay, Sai, Chong Wi Shing, based on the novel by Eiki Matayoshi. Camera (color) Yasushi Sasakibara; editor, Kakesu Shuichi; music, Wataru Okuma. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 10, 1999. Original title: Buta no mukui. Running time: 121 MIN.
With: Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Yoshie Hayasaka, Michiko Ameku, Mayumi Ueda, Susumu Taira, Taeko Yoshida.
In a tale whose principal themes concern death, spirituality, faith and salvation, it’s unorthodox, to say the least, that the characters’ journey to enlightenment involves a prolonged bout of acute diarrhea. Bizarre if nothing else, director Yohichi Sai’s “The Pig’s Retribution” provides an original examination of the conflict between the chaos of contemporary life and ancient religious traditions. But its awkward mix of absurdist elements and solemn drama never really engages, confining the film to marginal fest dates.
Story almost defies summarizing. En route to Majajima island to lay to rest the remains of his unburied father, Shockichi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) meets three dubious women in an Okinawa bar. An accident results in the release of a truckload of pigs, one of which invades the bar. This is interpreted as a bad omen and a sign of ancestral unrest. To cleanse their souls, Shockichi involves the bar floozies in his island pilgrimage. But they have more frivolous pleasures in mind, and their overeating of tainted pork prompts severe food poisoning. Despite its quirky tone, the film’s farcical comedy mostly falls flat and the characters’ arrival at serenity and understanding delivers pallid rewards.