Half Empty, Since 1998

Summary of, and comments on the 1968 film by Japanese director Fukusaku about a kidnapping gone wrong and a detective who’s just trying to make sense of it all.

Marty's Notes On "Black Lizard"

Marty Spellerberg. February 2nd, 2000

A super rich crime lady wants to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy jeweler so that she can turn her into a “doll” without a soul and preserve her beauty forever. The jeweler hires a private detective to protect her, but the lady twice uses ingenuous tricks to steal her away, yet twice the detective out tricks her. In the interim the lady falls for the detective and their love is the cause for many poetic monologues.

It’s rather like a 007 flick only very, very Japanese. While the style of the genre is perfectly executed, its main difference from the western kapers I’ve seen is the concentration on the emotional state of the characters, their personal relationships with each other. While most Bond films involve either large sums of money or political territory or the good old bomb, this revolved around the lady’s quest to make something of (what she considered) beauty. The jewel that was stolen was only a plot device, and another shiny ting that could be photographed for our visual pleasure. And any love affair our James ever had with an enemy while in his majesty’s service was always more about power – his ability to always get the girl – than it was about love. But in this Japanese movie, the emotion between the detective and the lady was always, despite its weirdness, tender and not ever consummated in the slightest way. I was very reminded during this of many of the other films we watched this term, especially The Pornographers and In The Realm of The Senses, I think because of the portrayal of sensuality, love and the definition of beauty.

I read somewhere that a critic called is “camp and a half” in the context of a gay film festival. I think I disagree with that statement not because it’s not campy (because it IS!), but because the lady being played by a man is not what makes it so. She’s played completely straight – except for that one scene where she dresses as a man for disguise – which could have been done had it been played by a biological woman, anyway. It was everything ELSE that made it campy – the melodramatic dialogue, the bold red letters flashing on the screen every change of city, the moody lighting and the dated music. I thought I was going to hate this film because I’d been told so many bad things about it from people I usually trust, but I did find it quite enjoyable and a much better example of the genre than almost any western film I can name.


Marty’s Japanese Film Notes

These notes were compiled in the winter of 1999 as part of Marty’s studies at the Ontario College of Art & Design. They may contain references to ideas in texts and credit is given to the authors.