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© Toei
Courtesy International Film Festival Rotterdam

Tomu Uchida: Japanese Genre Master

Saturday, September 15, 2007
6:30 p.m. The Mad Fox
Tomu Uchida (Japan, 1962)

(Koiya koi nasuna koi). If you were to see (foolishly) only one Uchida film, this should be it; just make sure to make space on the floor for your jaw. Uchida's reputation as a realist or naturalist is severely tested by this wildly stylized, immensely lovable fable. The crazy tale about a court fortune teller driven mad by a murder, who ends up marrying his slain lover's dead ringer, a fox in human form (got that?), incorporates animation, kabuki and butoh, colorist experiments, collapsing sets, animal masks, revolving stages, and scroll compositions. The political import of the fable is readily apparent—this is Uchida, after all—but the film's extravagant artifice all but swamps it. As the 'Scope image swims in deepest incarnadine or blooms into Van Gogh yellow, or a close-up holds on the fox bride madly lapping at her husband's wound, the topsy-turvy world of The Mad Fox leaves one feeling like the hero, who exclaims: "I am in confusion unto madness."

—James Quandt

• Written by Yoshikata Yoda. Photographed by Sadagi Yoshida. With Hashizo Okawa, Michiko Saga, Jun'ya Usami, Choichiro Kawarazaki. (109 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, Color, 'Scope, 35mm, From National Film Center, Tokyo, permission Toei)