Another sex and death number from Japan, as I make my home in the NMS's basement. This was the blackest comedy I've possibly ever seen, it asks, with ironic humour, if we may yet come to a point in culture where we will market insurance by commodifying failed suicide? An elegant construction, pitting Japan's historic concept of honourable death against the contemporary reign of simulation and media and capitalism, which feed on such virtue in fabricating advertising's heroic narratives. I don't think the film goes so far as to explicitly ask, if whether, mediated consumer society is inherently suicidal, but at a jump.
Early on, in a cruel reversal, Kiguchi's wife challenges him to profit from his recent media-worthiness, suggesting that to deny such opportunistic materialism is cowardly. Cowardly, as the antithesis of all that is heroic, aspirational and marketable. Thus abetted, Kiguchi, and all of Japan's honour he embodied in his restraint, subjects himself to a gradually total prostitution. In stages we are shown the way the media adopts a certain embodiment of virtue and hollows it out to be injected with a brand, our protagonist, however, was fairly hollow to begin with – as hollow as this notion of 'meaningful death' is considered by the Yoshida as bankrupt perhaps.
In this tragic character transformation, I don't believe he simply becomes one who believes his own hype. I think we can observe these two: 1. When a cynical media makes out that all virtue by public figures is contrived, self-fulfilledly these figures will lose nothing by playing to our low expectations. 2. Equally, when a shepherdless public invest saving hope in the infallibility of public figures, that is an impossible burden of trust and moral responsibility which can only be borne by illusion. So, Kiguchi is shot from both sides, and we see the man-eating dynamic of marketing at work.
So, he who began in innocence as a 'modern miracle' for simply 'saying what he thought', allows himself to be sold into a landscape 'surrounded by mirrors', which gradually by impatience beats out of him any Hamletian critical reflection as 'out of style' to leave a man so parasitically dependent on the supposed trust of an abstraction, 'my public', as to kill himself a second time for lack of it. A thoroughly modern moral tale. It is a concisely cut, closely shot film, with a number of frames delighting in that strength of singular lighting made excellent in black and white. Recommended highly.