The Face of Another ★★★★½

"Some masks come off, some don't."


It's been exactly one month since I watched Woman in the Dunes and the main reason why I didn't jump onto watching another Teshigahara-Abe-Takemitsu collaboration immediately was due to the way I worried about how nothing could ever match the standards set by Woman in the Dunes and glad I allowed sometime before watching The Face of Another that truly felt like another face of Cinema, a face I knew already but couldn't recognize in the form! ⁣

While Woman in the Dunes simplified a highly complicated subject matter with its eloquent visual storytelling, The Face of Another often complicated the simplest of situations both with The Dialogue and the shot compositions so much so that just like how the double identity of Mr Okuyama got echoed throughout the film visually by the repetition of imagery along with their context, I was forced to look at many scenes in both masked and unmasked ways myself. From the weirdly flawless blocking To framing the characters from their backsides To pov-shots To freeze-frames To surreal impressionistic frames To zoom-ins To sudden zoom-outs that played with my sight on what I was looking not being the actual picture To refracting the characters through glasses or reflecting them in mirrors or blocking my view of them through various objects, for instance, an X-ray screen-view straight away in the opening sequence itself, even the Camera assumed a double identity in line with its protagonist's. There is one fascinating theory floating around on the internet about the "internet" undercurrent in the film that felt so scarily relevant to the time we are living in! Although initially, it seemed fully mysterious for me to comprehend why am I getting to watch the story of another woman occasionally crosscutting with the main story, the realization of what the events in the story meant in connection to both the ongoing story and the World War 2 finally dawned upon me in one of the most haunting scenes that can be filmed only by someone with a unique vision like Teshigahara in bringing to the life the meaning behind the woman's literal scars on the front side as well the metaphorical scars left behind by the war.⁣

It was a highly intense viewing with subsequent multiple viewings perhaps easily advised to unpack the jam-packed symbolism this film plays with on-screen and off-screen alike in the hands of a surgeon of the composed image like Hiroshi Teshigahara who demands your eyes peeled wide open to peel back layers 'n' layers of meanings even from a seemingly simple scene! There are way too many masks to unmask while watching this film, be it the mask of the protagonist or the mask of the viewer or the figurative masks of makeup, alcohol, loyalty, seduction and what not and not only it's the work of seeing through, but also the ability to hear and hell to smell even (as emphasized in the subplot of the Yo-Yo girl)! I know I barely scratched the surface about the oceanic depth this film possesses as I had to constantly choose on which wave do I need to ride on, the undulated waves of identity in the real vision of my reality or the cross-currents of identity and dual identity or freedom and loneliness in this fictional vision of a fictional character who feels strangely real and pertinent across the time periods and I guess I overflowed on both of them and found myself gasping for breath on returning to the shore.

That said, all I can do from my side to contribute to a little to the hype is - it has one of the most badass closing shots/dialogue ever put to film that just refused to close the film in my mind and tonight I am going to be Joel from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (I don't know whether this was Kaufman's deliberate tribute to Teshigahara or not) in getting "dreams" of that ultimate imagery present in the penultimate sequence of The Face of Another!

P.S. Makes for a fascinating double feature with Eyes Without a Face and OMG, to think Persona and The Face of Another came out in the same year that too with just one month gap between them... my mind can'tttttttttttt

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