I am Waiting is in the Eclipse Series 17 sub-series of the Criterion Collection. From the back of the DVD case
"Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions. Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer. Visit us at criterion.com."
This series is called Nikkatsu Noir. Nikkatsu is the oldest film studio in Japan. In the 1950s and 1960s they sought to reinvent themselves by borrowing from the French and American genres and big-screen imports. There are 5 films in this collection. I am Waiting is the oldest film in the series. It was made in 1957 and is in black and white
Joji Shimaki, the owner of a diner befriends a woman, Saeko, who fears she has killed a man. He takes her in, and gives her refuge while they wait for the newspapers to see if the man has died. Shimaki is also waiting for a letter from his brother. The brother moved to Brazil a year ago to buy a farm and will write when all is ready for Shimaki to join him. They take a day off from they diner to go to a boxing match. After the match, their stories start to collide and Shimake is thrown into the seedy underworld of the cities gangster.
This is different from American Film Noir. The edges feel rougher somehow, the protagonist seems more ragged at the edges than Sam Spade, yet is still more hero than anti-hero. It is still easily recognized as film noir. The violence by today's standards is quite tame. It is an important part of the movie, but is only there to further the story. Nothing in this short film is wasted, no throw away lines, no unnecessary scenes. When you are in the mood for an old-fashioned film-noir detective movie I can highly recommend this one.
The film is the directorial debut Koreyoshi Kurahara, who continued to make films into the 1990s. Yujiro Ishihara who plays Shimake was a prolific actor from 1955 into the 1980s. He died in 1987. Saeko is played by Mei Kitihara. IMDB.com shows her career as being from 1952 to 1960.
I enjoyed this movie and will look for others by Kurahara, Ishihara, or Kitihara.