MAIKU HAMA, #1 PRIVATE EYE

Movies-wise, Mike Hammer – the hard-boiled private dick antihero created by master pulpist Mickey Spillane – was most memorably rendered by Ralph Meeker in Robert Aldrich’s atomic-anxiety noir classic KISS ME DEADLY. There was also I, THE JURY two years prior (starring Biff Elliot) and the ill-advised Armand Assante remake three decades later. But less famous is Japanese auteur Kaizô Hayashi’s surrogate “Maiku Hama”, hardheaded as ever but occasionally lacking one in the chamber – running his office out of an ancient movie palace, where clients have to buy a ticket (no exceptions!) to get in. This March, Spectacle is pleased to present three unsung classics of Japanese neo-noir: this is MAIKU HAMA, #1 PRIVATE EYE, embodied immortally by the rubber-faced Masatoshi Nagase (most famous for his starring turn in Jim Jarmusch’s MYSTERY TRAIN), who would reprise the character in a made-for-TV followup decades later.

(Special thanks to Film Detective Pictures.)



THE MOST TERRIBLE TIME IN MY LIFE
(我が人生最悪の時)
dir. Kaizô Hayashi, 1994
92 mins. Japan/Taiwan.
In Japanese with english subtitles.
THURSDAY, MARCH 1 – 10 PM
THURSDAY, MARCH 8 – 10 PM
THURSDAY, MARCH 15 – 7:30 PM
FRIDAY, MARCH 23 – 7:30 PM
MONDAY, MARCH 26 – 7:30 PM

ONLINE TICKETS HERE

Hayashi’s breakout THE MOST TERRIBLE TIME IN MY LIFE is still the most famous of the three MAIKU HAMA pictures. After losing a finger trying to protect a Chinese restaurant employee from a local hoodlum, Hama is contracted to find the waiter’s long-lost twin brother, plunging him into an intense rivalry between Taiwanese and Japanese gangsters (including a small role by TETSUO: THE IRON MAN auteur Shinya Tsukamoto!) Hayashi embosses the story in sleek CinemaScope black-and-white, anchoring its allegiances to filmmakers like Seijun Suzuki and Kihachi Okamoto – a whirling pop-art whodunit that moves so fast you barely have time to notice its ice cold satiric streak.



STAIRWAY TO THE DISTANT PAST
(遥かな時代の階段を)
dir. Kaizô Hayashi, 1995
101 mins. Japan.
FRIDAY, MARCH 2 – 10 PM
TUESDAY, MARCH 6 – 10 PM
WEDNESDAY MARCH 14 – 7:30 PM
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21 – 10 PM
FRIDAY, MARCH 23 – 10 PM

ONLINE TICKETS HERE

In Japanese with English subtitles.STAIRWAY TO THE DISTANT PAST is a mile-a-minute tragi-comedy in the cinema du look vein of Luc Besson and Jean-Jacques Beneix, wherein Hama and his kid sister (Haruko Wanibuchi) go on the hunt for their long-missing parents among the flotsam of Yokohama’s underworld. While Hama continues spending more time getting his ass kicked than solving mysteries, long-denied traumas and disappointments have a way of reasserting themselves, while street toughs on sea-doos remind Hama his every move is being watched. After switching from comedy to mystery in THE MOST TERRIBLE TIME OF MY LIFE (to rib-bruisingly funny effect), STAIRWAY ups the ante to include to a surprisingly heartfelt story of family reconciliation (against the usual mob-warfare backdrop.)



THE TRAP
(罠)
dir. Kaizô Hayashi, 1996
106 mins. Japan.
In Japanese with English subtitles.
TUESDAY, MARCH 6 – 7:30 PM
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14 – 10 PM
FRIDAY, MARCH 23 – MIDNIGHT
MONDAY, MARCH 26 – 10 PM
THURSDAY, MARCH 29 – 10 PM

ONLINE TICKETS HERE

Hayashi would give his fans a pulse-pounding, breathtaking surprise in 1996’s THE TRAP – a film whose macabre bleakness flies in the face of the go-for-broke goofiness of the trilogy’s first 2/3rds. Making a decent living and finding himself in love for the first time, Maiku Hama would appear to have turned a corner – until a murderer goes on a streak poisoning innocent women, and leaving Hama’s fingerprints behind. The same duo of annoying police detectives are following him, but they’ve been privy to his shenanigans before; Hama is a doofus, not a serial killer. Hayashi uses a straightforward descent-into-hell scenario to indulge in narrative detours both surreal and faux verite; THE TRAP appears to embody a few different movies at once, a perfect analog for Hama’s queasy, uncertain headspace as he gets further down the trail of the killer.

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