Soon after businessman Junpei Ueki returns to Japan after two years in Hong Kong, he mysteriously vanishes. His daughter Keiko enlists the aid of her boyfriend Shotaro, who just happens to be a newspaper reporter, to help locate him. Although the father returns in a few days claiming that he'd gone to a spa after his retirement party, Shotaro can't help but thinking that something's not quite right with this explanation. Like a dog with his bone, Shotaro relentlessly pursues leads he's uncovered, leading him deeper and deeper into a world of suicides -- or are they murders? -- and drug smuggling, all seemingly related to the suspicious Sun God sect.
Like Smashing the 0-Line (also being shown today), The Sleeping Beast Within is an urban crime tale that Suzuki directed for Nikkatsu. But the acting and screenplay of Sleeping are a cut above those in Smashing.
AsianCineFest rating: 3 out of 4 stars; solidly recommended.
These two screenings of The Sleeping Beast Within are part of Action and Anarchy: The Films of Seijun Suzuki, a twenty-one film retrospective programmed by Tom Vick, Curator of Film, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, and co-organized with the Japan Foundation. Print courtesy of the Japan Foundation.