THE MOST TERRIBLE TIME IN MY LIFE
Dir. Kaizô Hayashi, 1994
92 mins. Japan/Taiwan.
In Japanese with english subtitles.
Movies-wise, Mike Hammer - the hard-boiled private dick antihero created by master pulpist Mickey Spillane - was most memorably rendered by Ralph Meeker in Robert Aldrichs atomic-anxiety noir classic KISS ME DEADLY. There was also I, THE JURY two years prior (starring Biff Elliot) and the ill-advised Armand Assante remake three decades later. But less famous is Japanese auteur Kaizô Hayashi's surrogate Maiku Hama, hardheaded as ever but occasionally lacking one in the chamber - running his office out of an ancient movie palace, where clients have to buy a ticket (no exceptions!) to get in. This March, Spectacle is pleased to present three unsung classics of Japanese neo-noir: this is MAIKU HAMA, #1 PRIVATE EYE, embodied immortally by the rubber-faced Masatoshi Nagase (most famous for his starring turn in Jim Jarmusch's MYSTERY TRAIN), who would reprise the character in a made-for-TV followup decades later.
(Special thanks to Film Detective Pictures.)
Hayashi's breakout THE MOST TERRIBLE TIME IN MY LIFE is still the most famous of the three MAIKU HAMA pictures. After losing a finger trying to protect a Chinese restaurant employee from a local hoodlum, Hama is contracted to find the waiter's long-lost twin brother, plunging him into an intense rivalry between Taiwanese and Japanese gangsters (including a small role by TETSUO: THE IRON MAN auteur Shinya Tsukamoto!) Hayashi embosses the story in sleek CinemaScope black-and-white, anchoring its allegiances to filmmakers like Seijun Suzuki and Kihachi Okamoto - a whirling pop-art whodunit that moves so fast you barely have time to notice its ice cold satiric streak.
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