On the road to the town, the convoy is assaulted by the local partisan army that dogs the Japanese throughout the film.
Trucks are blown to pieces by charging partisans on horseback, and soldiers crowd around a dead fellow, whose body is slung into the back of another truck, where it bobs pathetically on the continued journey.
Maverick Japanese director Seijun Suzuki has built a sizeable reputation outside of his native country, and yet he is still nowhere near famous enough.
A genuinely great film artist on a level with the most reputed names of world cinema, Suzuki’s was, for better and worse, famously defined by his struggle against being pigeonholed as a director of gangland melodramas.
Now Harumi catches sight of handsome Corporal Shinkichi Mikami (Tamio Kawaji), just released from a stint in hospital, whilst a commander, angered by the attack, gestures to a nearby village and declares, “We’ve got to kill some men and set an example!
” They reach Buken, a walled city, grimy and degraded—as unlikely a scene for imperial glory as any conceivable, on the edge of a wasteland that seems to stretch across the borders of the liminal to become an existential desert.
Such is the ferocity of the attack that Harumi’s fellows immediately jump out of the truck, wanting to walk back to Tianjin if they have to.
But as Harumi flatly states she might as well go on because she has nowhere else to go, they climb back in and acquiesce to her cold realism.Harumi’s confident belief that her own fecund erotic power can destabilize the hierarchy is underlined as Suzuki offers a shot of her, clearly stripped but framed from just above her breasts and encompassing her grimly smiling face, as an icon of ripe, subversive intent.When she first tries to seduce him in a shed adjoining the brothel, Mikami slaps her when he thinks she’s mocking him: as her fellow prostitutes mass around Mikami and abuse him, Harumi screams in hysteria.He gives time to the prostitutes’ banter, fears, their collective sensibility, their louche deportment, play, despair, and gossipy pleasure in their moments of rest, before the columns of soldiers are marched in to begin the exhausting business of assembly-line rutting.At first, the girls doubt it when they’re told they’ll all find sweethearts amongst the soldiers—“How will we find the time?He subjected the genre to increasingly strange and astounding formal experiments and thematic detonations, until he finally, effectively sabotaged his career with the mighty surrealist thriller (1967).