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Weekend Recommendation: The Mystery of Rampo

June 14, 2007

The Mystery of RampoThis weekend’s film recommendation will probably piss a few people off. . . That is, of those who will take a chance on the film in the first place.

Directed by Rintaro Mayuzumi & Kazuyoshi Okuyama, The Mystery of Rampo is a film of deep power, eros and sensuality. A film that peers deeply into the artist’s act of creation.

The mystery does not reside in a whodunnit, nor does the story unfold in a linear manner. Where this film probably upset the most people is in it’s non-traditional form of storytelling and in its marketing.

The Japanese title is simply, Rampo. Any mystery in the film is truly left up to you. Mainstream audiences don’t often like stories that don’t hit predictable beats at a certain moment, and when a film doesn’t deliver exactly what an audience expects, often its seen as betrayal of the tacit agreement between audience and filmmaker.

If most narrative film falls into the category of dramatic story, Rampo falls into the realm of sensual poetry, an alchemy of Rumi and Bashō. So many great films are misunderstood because of a superficial consideration of a film’s basic premise. The Thin Red Line is not a war film. 2001: A Space Odyssey is not a space adventure. The Triplets of Belleville is not a children’s film and The Mystery of Rampo is not an erotic thriller.

For the fullest appreciation of the film, you’re best served to sit back and enjoy the ride. There are many surprises along the way. Lush cinematography, beautiful performances, and with music by Akira Senju, one of the most epic and romantic soundtracks I have ever heard.

I think for the dreamers, creators and passionate thinkers out there, Rampo will touch their hearts and minds. I realize that to a certain extent, I’ve described much of what the film isn’t with little focus on what it is, but this is another film that is best experienced without a sense of what to expect.  Let the film happen to you. No expectations, no mystery, and really, nothing else like it.

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