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Cult Vault #24: Alex Cox on Vengeance is Mine

Alex Cox talks a cult classic, depicting the true story of serial killer Akira Nishiguchi

Taken from the April 2012 issue of Dazed & Confused:

Repo Man director Alex Cox selects Shohei Imamura’s 1979 cult classic Vengeance is Mine, which depicts a psychopathic killing spree in Japan’s seedy underside. 


“This film is based on true events – there was a 78-day manhunt for this murderer who travelled all over Japan before he was caught. The story starts with his capture, then takes us back to his childhood where we see his father humiliated by Buddhist bad guys. It’s quite offhand – sometimes the killing is upfront and graphic, sometimes he’ll meet a man on a train and then it’ll cut to our protagonist in a room eating dinner, while the camera slides around and there’s the guy from the train, dead. There are surreal moments, like when he’s walking upstairs with a knife in his hand and downstairs his mother walks past, yet she’s hundreds of miles away. It isn’t a clean, linear narrative, it’s the story of what’s going on in this serial killer’s mind. 

Imamura began his career by working with Yasujiro Ozu, the most highly regarded director in Japan. But he developed his own, more earthy style, revolving around the lives of the marginal: pimps, prostitutes, people who worked in bars or frequented them. I think he wants us to be puzzled as to why these things occur. That’s what leads us to the mysterious ending, where when they try to return the killer’s bones to the earth, the earth won’t accept them.”