The Man Who Stole the Sun

Taiyo wo nusunda otoko

dir. Kazuhiko Hasegawa

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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A high school chemistry teacher attempts to hold Japan to ransom with a homemade atomic bomb in this weird, wild and controversial black comedy.
Winner of a passel of prizes, this weird and wild update of Dr. Strangelove (co-scripted by Leonard Schrader, brother of Paul — which might explain the homages to Taxi Driver) follows a high school chemistry teacher (played by rock star Kenji Sawada) who builds an atomic bomb to hold Tokyo to ransom, but then can't decide what he wants: the full-length broadcast of baseball games without commercials, or perhaps, as a disc jockey suggests to him, a Rolling Stones concert. Disguising himself as a pregnant woman (with the bomb as baby bump), he makes his way to the Japanese Diet, pursued by crew-cut, bullet-headed policeman Yamashita (veteran Bunta Sugawara); the final standoff between teacher-terrorist and laconic cop is one of many ironic nods to American action films, including a Bullitt-biting car chase. The controversial ending has been called everything from "magnificent" to "twisted." Making black comedy out of the all-but-unmentionable in a Japan still haunted by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, The Man Who Stole the Sun is "only marginally less bizarre than Shinoda's Demon Pond" (J. Hoberman, The Village Voice).