The Man Without a Map (1968)

Life as Navigation

Everyone has an anchor when they enter a film. With a little exposure to world cinema, that anchor for each film is rooted in the tradition you select from that culture. This is a personal choice, made long before you encounter the film.

Quite possibly, no national cinematic tradition offers a starker choice than Japan. My own choice is not the obvious: Kurosawa or Ozu, though I celebrate them and they’ve built my life. The anchor is chosen as a reference, a coherent cinematic cosmology to establish the world you’ll register all else against: the underlying passions and grief; the relationships between viewer and filmmaker; and most especially the plasticity of the world.

My anchor for Japanese cinema is this filmmaker, on his way to Ikibana master.

The consensus is that this is less powerful than ‘Woman in the Dunes’, which does succeed in being viscerally accessible. But I find this even more life altering because I think I understand this filmmaker’s evolution, and I can go into the world of Shinto asymmetry he wants to live in. This is not chaos. This is not poor filmmaking. It is much more precise, but instead of stepping on stones to cross the river, instead he sometimes steps on the water and trusts it to carry him.

I’ll invite you to follow me on this journey. I admit it is risky because he asks you to unanchored yourself from whatever core narrative you cling to.

I saw this close to seeing “Future Color” and the contrast could not be greater. To make a film like this work, you have to create the imaginary space within which you hop around. Lynch and Kaufman understand this, so their rambles survey a world. This man does as well. It is a bit harder for me to find the cosmic footing because I am not Japanese with experience in this era. But there are enough ledges to grab.

After this ‘experimental’ film, he made an ordinary antiwar movie. He also made two documentary about the iconic masters he patterned himself against: Gaudi, an architect about whom much can be said. My favourite worker in form in the West; and Rikyu master of the tea ceremony that sets the pattern for Ikebana masters.

We don’t have their equal in film. Yet.

Posted in 2022

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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