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Review: Heroic Purgatory

Eager to make use of my MoviePass card before the service crashes and burns permanently, I ventured out to Metrograph to catch a screening of Heroic Purgatory (part of a mini-retrospective celebrating the career of experimental/revolutionary filmmaker Yoshihige Yoshida).

I’ve never encountered a movie quite like this before, Japanese or otherwise; it feels reductive to describe it as “Ingmar Bergman meets David Lynch,” but that’s the best comparison I can manage. The plot (if you can call it that) is perhaps a bit too impenetrable and cryptic, but the style is absolutely sublime. The constantly roving camera traps the characters in claustrophobic, distorted frames-within-frames, shoving them to the extreme corners of the screen. I couldn’t tell you the thematic significance behind this aesthetic choice; maybe it doesn’t even have a concrete meaning. And ultimately, the answer doesn’t really matter; the hypnotic, dreamlike cinematography, music, and sound design are beautiful enough on their own; they certainly don’t require something as trivial as a coherent narrative to justify their existence.

[Originally written August 5, 2018.]

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