I remember renting the DVD (when rental stores existed) of Giants and Toys as a teen, introducing to the dizzying world of Yasuzo Masamura. If you think films by Nagisa Oshima like Boy or The Sun's Burial can feel cynical or grim, they often feel light in comparison to the bleak, satirical world video of Masamura. For all the numerous Masamura films I've seen from films he did for ATG in the 70s, his Hanzo the Razor film, and numerous masterpieces of the 60s, I for some reason hadn't seen these two.
The Black Report fis a fairly standard procedural film for the first hour on how to build a murder case and was sort of let down by how unspectacular and sort of toothless it felt. This was until the last half-hour of the film which is probably among the most nihilistic of his entire output. The running theme of his best contemporary set works of this era is the power and desire for money and here a man's death is made to be so cheap as all his friends, family, and lover are willing to lie about the circumstances surrounding his death solely for a bit of financial gain. And when they begin to feel guilt, it's not even entirely out of altruism, but out of the fact they got cheated out of finances themselves. The film doesn't even allow any sort of redemption to be a sort of saving grace and goes completely through with the best sort of unsatisfying ending where there feels to be no chance to beat the system.
Unlike The Black Report which has a shakey first hour, The Black Test Car is a masterpiece. Masamura's 'scope cinematography of these cramped interiors isolate all these salarymen turned thugs into these empty, soulless places. It's sort of a reworking of Giants and Toys, but instead of using humor to display the self-destructive nature of advancing in Japan's rapidly expanding corporate economy, it depicts it with a sense of cruelty. There's also an underlying element of lingering militarism being used in corporate espionage as all the superiors of the competing automobile company are connected to Japan's former territory in Manchuria, a sort of taste of the underlying brutality of the people involved in these worlds. I re-watched Juzo Itami's Minbo the night before, a very different movie, but it was interesting comparing the trope of cinematic yakuza versus the gruff salarymen of this film as their tactics for extortion, blackmail, and manipulation were so similar. It implies the fascistic tendencies of these meek salarymen as their inhumanity evolves when they build divisions among their own factions to funnel out the weak and to sacrifice their interpersonal relations for potential advancements in their job.
The last half year for Arrow Video have been spectacular and I'm happy to see between this, Warning from Space, and the Gamera box set, they've begun tapping into the Kadokawa library. I hope this sells well enough to see more Yasuzo Masamura in the future.