- Director : Tomu Uchida
- Actors : Rentarō Mikuni, Sachiko Hidari, Kōji Mitsui
- Subtitles: : English
- Studio : Arrow Video
- Country of Origin : Japan
- Number of discs : 1
- Run time : 3 hours and 3 minutes
- Release date : September 27, 2022
Director Tomu Uchida established himself as a significant director making period films, until television threatened the popularity of the artform in the 1960s. In response, Uchida took on the adaptation of author Tsutomu Minakami’s modern detective story, which was released in serial form. The story follows the aftermath of a theft that Takichi Inukai (Rentarō Mikuni) inadvertently becomes an accomplice to. When Inukai kills the other two robbers in what was either an act of self defense or greed, depending on what the viewer chooses to believe, he attracts the attention of a persistent detective, Yumisaka (Junzaburō Ban).
In his efforts to escape, Inukai comes across a quirky but good-natured prostitute named Yae (Sachiko Hidari). The kindness she shows Inukai leaves an impression, and he sees her lower-class status as a way to alleviate the guilt he feels from the crimes he was involved in. After leaving her with enough money to get her out of debt, Yae feels a sense of connection and gratitude for the passing criminal. After lying to Yumisaka and essentially helping him escape punishment for his crimes, Yae herself becomes obsessed with reconnecting with him. The irony is that her obsession ultimately undoes the efforts she initially made to cover for him, as a new detective becomes aware of his crimes many years later.
A Fugitive From the Past is a unique crime film in that the narrative changes perspectives several times. Although we initially follow Inukai and then shift to the perspective of Yumisaka as he investigates, the epic film eventually moves to a socially realistic depiction of Yae’s existence as a prostitute. The one thing that keeps her going is the thought that she may some day thank Inukai for his kindness. Ultimately, Yae is the film’s greatest detective, though it does not serve her well.
Uchida’s three-hour crime epic takes its time to develop the characters rather than giving the audience endless action or suspense. This also makes it much more meaningful when events do occur to these characters. It is a thoughtful epic crime film with no simple answers or clear protagonist, which is likely why it is considered a masterpiece of Japanese filmmaking.
The Blu-ray release from Arrow Video gives the film the thoughtful treatment it deserves. Along with the high definition presentation of the restored cut of the film, the disc has an illustrated collector’s booklet with essays on the film by David Baldwin and Inuhiko Yomota. The packaging has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella. The disc itself contains these special features:
by writer and curator Jasper Sharp
- Scene-specific commentaries from leading Japanese film scholars Aaron Gerow, Irene González-López, Erik Homenick, Earl Jackson, Daisuke Miyao and Alexander Zahlten
- Image gallery
- Tomu Uchida filmography
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10
Historical Significance: 8/10
Special Features: 7/10
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