by Sean Gilman Film

Hengyoro | Gō Takamine

July 25, 2017

Okinawan filmmaker Gō Takamine’s Hengyoro is an unclassifiable collage. More or less centered on the story of a couple of elderly men who perform what they call “chain plays” (fluid mixtures of film and theatre), the two get into trouble when one accidentally steals a bagged aphrodisiac from their village store. The aphrodisiac looks exactly like flour, right down to the packaging, but for a small label marking its contents as “explicit.” The store owner sends his three wives, a trio of dripping wet women who are apparently some kind of spirits, to cut off the guy’s ear.

The old men leave town, but are eventually drawn back to the village, driven either by the circular nature of reality or the allure of its avant-garde scene. (Represented by, among other things, a woman singing while despondent people paint plaster on each other; Bill Morrisonian decaying strips of 8mm film stock, soaked in sea snake soup in an attempt at restoration; and a modernized caveman who wears a feathered hat and digs rock music.) I don’t know how much of this is sourced in folk tradition or myth, possibly none of it, but the pervading sense is of a culture lost in time, of past and present colliding in explicable conversations, and bits and pieces of a lost world adrift in forgotten places. Film and reality fold in on themselves, creating unfathomable mysteries.

Published as part of Japan Cuts 2017.