It is difficult to summarise Shohei Imamura's legendary 1967 film. Is it a documentary that turns into a fiction? A narrative film from beginning to end? A record of improvisation populated with actors or non-actors (and in what proportion)? Is it the investigation into a true disappearance, or a work merely inspired by actual events? Even at the conclusion of its final movement, A Man Vanishes (Ningen johatsu, or The Unexplained Disappearance of a Human Being) mirrors its subject in deflecting inquiries into the precise nature of its own being.
A middle-class salaryman has gone missing - possibly of his own accord - and a film crew has set out to assemble a record of the man and the events surrounding his disappearance. As the crew meticulously builds a cachet of interviews with the man's family and lovers, their subject and his motivations become progressively more elusive - until the impossibility of the endeavour seems to transform the very film itself.
Long unavailable anywhere on home video, Imamura's A Man Vanishes remains a unique and crucial entry in a provocative filmmaker's body of work.