Kon Ichikawa Colin Young - Essay

Colin Young

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The comédie noire may be going out of fashion. When [Odd Obsession] was shown at Cannes in 1960 only the Japanese visitors thought it funny, and their laughter was written off as being eccentric, or at best ill-mannered. Only later did the grudging admission appear that perhaps it was a comedy after all, of a very stylish sort, and the jury gave it a prize. Unfortunately …, American audiences are proving as dense as the fashionable group at Cannes. They simply do not know that, or when, they are to laugh. This is puzzling, because it is not only an exceedingly well-made film, but also vastly entertaining, in a grisly sort of way. (p. 53)

[Odd Obsession] is concerned to show but not to "deal in" the prurience of the old man who is a bit of a voyeur—even with his own wife (he takes pictures of her asleep in the nude). It does not try to encourage voyeurism in its audience.

Drama sometimes deals with special cases. This is a special case. The sensualities of its characters are shown blandly, with humor rather than with any pornographic intention. Of course these sensualities are bizarre and exist in a hot-house atmosphere where there seems none of our usual concern with scruple.

This leads to some extremely well-written scenes…. Ichikawa never plays for obvious laughs, and is apparently content to draw us into his characters so that we can discover this absurdity….

[Odd Obsession is much less obvious than the novel on which it is based]. The film does not replace the literary device [of the diary] with a visual one; it uses its time to concentrate on the extremely bizarre situations which it develops. If it does this so subtly as to confuse, this is a pity, because it is finally as comedy that this film should be judged and enjoyed. (p. 54)

Colin Young, "Film Reviews in General Release: 'Odd Obsession'," in Film Quarterly (copyright 1962 by The Regents of the University of California; reprinted by permission of the University of California Press), Vol. 15, No. 2, Winter, 1961–62, pp. 53-4.