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Countercurrents: The Films of Yasuzo Masumura

Saturday, September 27, 1997
Black Test Car
Yasuzo Masumura Japan, 1962

(Kuro no tesuto kaa). Spy-versus-spy in the Japanese auto industry, in the years before Toyota and Honda entered the international market. Meetings are still held in dingy little rooms, trade secrets passed in briefcases and on pillowcases. Souls can still be bought for very little, and sometimes saved, which is more costly. The success of this popular thriller led Daiei studio to launch the "Black" espionage-corruption series, three of which Masumura directed. Industrial espionage is one of Masumura's pet subjects for satiric exposé but you know he's head-on serious about the evils of industry whose ethos has become the norm in society. In this he is very much like the Italian director Francesco Rosi, some of whose expressive turns (the desolate crane shots, the clipped frame, the quick cuts) we are reminded of in this film's exciting cinematic language. You may never figure out if the "Pioneer" is a family car or a sports car, and who cares?, but lives have been lost, and great cinematic moments made, over less.

• Written by Kazuo Funabashi, Yoshihiro Ishimatsu, based on a novel by Sueyuki Kajiyama. Photographed by Yoshihisa Nakagawa. With Jiro Tamiya, Junko Kano, Eiji Funakoshi, Reiko Shirai. (95 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 'Scope, 16mm, From The Japan Foundation, permission Daiei)