Hit and Run

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Dan Sallitt

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Mar 3, 2010, 10:39:23 PM3/3/10
to NaruseRetro, meke...@kerpan.com
A few earlier comments about HIT AND RUN are scattered through this
now-closed thread:

http://groups.google.com/group/naruseretro/browse_thread/thread/8f04fc1c396009a5

I've put some spoilers in this post, but I think the plot developments
I spoil are basically set-up rather than payoff.

HIT AND RUN (1966) is still one of my least favorite Naruse films, as
it was when I first saw it in the 1985 traveling retro. Based on a
script by Zenzo Matsuyama, the project seems inspired by pulp fiction,
and is lurid in a bunch of different ways: in Hideko Takamine's
uncharacteristically histrionic performance; in its implausible story
of a nice, bereaved mother determined to kill another woman's child in
revenge; in its weirdly effect-ridden style, crammed with wipes,
scrims, white infusions, and seasick pans and tilts. HIT AND RUN is
such a outlying data point in the distribution of Naruse's career than
one assumes he was consciously experimenting with extreme
storytelling. But how he expected to pull it together eludes me.

As in his other 1966 film noir, THE STRANGER WITHIN A WOMAN, Naruse
seems to want to take the gloves off and depict the despair of the
human condition as directly and brutally as possible. The film's most
powerful moments are its most unbearable: the sight of a critically
injured child in a rear-view mirror, struggling to stand up; a nurse's
calm observation that the devastated Takamine has been trying to
strangle herself with her own hands. Even in more routine scenes, the
strain of morbidity built into the project is deployed with
iconoclastic intent to shock. At times, especially in the middle
section where the vengeful mother takes charge of the plot, the film
becomes so fast-paced that it seems to find its style in sprinting
through the minefield of melodrama. But this theory is hard to
sustain, given that Naruse again and again steers straight into the
material's over-the-top emotionality. The nagging sense that Naruse
was making exactly the film he wanted to make is the only thing that
keeps me engaged with this weird little item.

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