SNOW TRAIL. Toho Firm, Japan, 1947. Unique title: Ginrei no hate. Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Yoshio Kosugi. Director: Senkichi Taniguchi. At the moment streaming on the Criterion Channel.
Pretty early on in Snow Path, the viewer learns that there are three escaped financial institution robbers and that they’re hiding out someplace in distant, chilly mountainous terrain. Enter what seems to be an city police detective who’s working with native authorities to apprehend the lads.
After which the film shifts to a resort the place two staff, who heard on the radio that one of many fugitives is lacking a number of fingers, are seen scheming as to how they will get one of many resort’s visitors to take away the glove he wears on a regular basis.
At this level, it’s not clear whether or not the film goes to be a police procedural, a movie noir, or one thing else fully. Certainly, it takes about one other thirty or forty minutes for the central story of the film to come back into its personal and by that point, you’re hooked.
After one of many three fugitives purportedly dies, the remaining two males should wrestle to outlive amidst the chilly, desolate panorama. Fortunately for them, they discover shelter in a mountain cabin inhabited by an previous man, his granddaughter, and a mountaineer who’s actually weathering an oncoming storm with them.
It’s then when the 2 males, portrayed by Japanese movie legends Takashi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune, start to conflict. The older of the 2 criminals, Nojiro (Shimura) turns into wistful and introspective. Though it’s by no means made completely specific, one senses that he’s starting to have deep, painful regrets about his life selections.
Eijima (Mifune), however, grows extra chilly, extra divorced from humanity, and more and more prepared to make the most of violence. There’s a chillingly efficient scene through which Ejima barks at his erstwhile colleague for merely having fun with listening to music. He’s the character who has gone spiraling downward into darkness.
In some ways, Snow Path has all of the hallmarks of movie noir and was clearly influenced by American crime movies. However it’s additionally an existentialist work and a redemption story. The film is essentially about one man, alone in opposition to a large panorama of mountains and sky, who realizes too late that he has essentially wasted his life on crime moderately than on household and connection to nature.
In comparison with Japanese crime movies of the 1960s and 1970s, this little-known movie might not be significantly compelling cinematically. However it’s a solidly constructed work of Japanese postwar cinema that deserves a glance.