I made some blunders going into watching Vengeance is Mine, the recently Criterion released Shohei Imamura film from 1979. It is called a serial killer movie, it tells the story of the real life spree killer Akira Nishiguchi, so I had certain contemporary expectations.
The first part of the film fulfilled them. It is fast paced, with jump cuts, non chronological editing, and some really effective and disturbing murder scenes that call to mind last years great film, Zodiac.
Slowly, however, the film defied my expectations, becoming rambling and often very quiet and slow. As Nishiguchi is on the run he visits inns, has affairs, murders people, and swindles them out of their money. But rather than tense, movie-like high drama, it is all shown as almost unedited documentary footage.
Ken Ogata is remarkable as the killer, a complex and inhuman character full of both rage and self control, sexual obsession and total passivity.
The other mistake I made with the film, was that I put it on fairly late in the evening and had to watch it in parts. After watching the first hour and a half (it has a 2 hr 20 min running time) I was not sure if I was going to recommend it. That night, however, it never left my mind. Like lots of great films that might be a bit more difficult while watching, this one has most impact after the fact. It's a slow burn.