Death by Hanging

1968 satire

Rating: 16/20

Plot: In Japan, a Korean rapist and murderer is hanged. He survives, however, and loses his memory. Everybody involved decides they need him to remember his crimes in order to attempt a second hanging and work to reenact his wrongdoings and refresh his memory.

The satire, though borderline preachy, connects, and the story--likely because its protagonist has a name that is a single letter--recalled Franz Kafka. Things start normal enough with an almost-documentary feel, the camera showing us every mundane inch of the building in which the execution will take place. Most of the action takes place there, the characters kind of trapped in this philosophical discussion, R.'s sins, and eventually their own failings. The reenactments were over-the-top and funnier than I would have expected. This delivers its points a bit too hard, and I don't have enough background in Japanese/Korean relations to understand exactly what was going on there. But this Theater-of-the-Absurdist Nagisa Oshima comedy still clicks, building to a finale that is both wacky and shocking.

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