From the Criterion Collection: "Among the first Japanese films to deal directly with the scars of World War II, this drama about a group of rank-and-file Japanese soldiers jailed for crimes... See full summary »
Kinoshita's ambitious and intensely moving film begins as a multi-generational epic about the military legacy of one Japanese family, before settling into an emotionally complex portrayal ... See full summary »
Tragic melodrama almost plays like like a sordid soap opera. It features a poor master-less Ronin, Iemon Tamiya desiring to live a more lavish lifestyle, stuck in a marriage with Oiwa, who practically worships him, completely indebted to the samurai for pulling her out of a destitute state of being. A recently released criminal, Kohei, who went to prison out of love for Oiwa(..when she worked in a teahouse)survived countless beatings among other harsh treatments just so he could see her again. Kohei's love is obsessive, to the point of borderline madness..he frightens Oiwa who adores Iemon, her husband, and, at one point, calls on elder neighbor Takuetsu for help to get him off her property. Meanwhile, snake-in-the-grass Naosuke(..who was in prison with Kohei; a rat who snitched on his fellow inmates regarding their plan on a prison break)has his own plans for gaining wealth, working as a gardener, manipulating Iemon into perhaps poisoning Oiwa so that he could marry a rich merchant's daughter, Oume. If Naosuke can convince Iemon to poison Oiwa, he can use the crime against him for blackmailing purposes. Thanks to Oume's maid, Omaki, Naosuke is able to arrange get-togethers between her and Iemon with an affair on the horizon. While Iemon slowly grows more tired and frustrated with Oiwa's clinging devotion, and, more importantly, his low status as a Ronin living in near poverty, Naosuke goads Kohei into advancing his cause for his obsession's cooperation. It seems, after all is said and done, Naosuke's concocted scheme might eventually pay off after a confrontation between Iemon and Oiwa results in her face falling into hot water, a burnt face made worse by tampered ointment. With Oiwa's face scarred, Iemon convinces her to take her medicine, laced with poison provided by Naosuke, others interrupt the perfect crime such as Kohei and Takuetsu unannounced, resulting in further violent activity.
I entered the film thinking this was a ghost story regarding a tragic victim haunting the lover who killed her. But, THE GHOST OF YOTSUYA PART I, in actuality, sets the stage for the haunting in the second film. We are introduced to Yomoshichi briefly at the beginning, a childhood friend of Kohei who greets him after noticing him in the streets in a sullen, depressed mood. Yomoshichi's wife, Osode, looks almost exactly like Oiwa. They will obviously play a greater role in the second film after Oiwa's horrifying death at the hands of Lemon and Naosuke. THE GHOST OF YOTSUYA PART I is a somber tale of misery and betrayal, with a vile criminal mastermind, Naosuke, planting the seeds alcoholic Ronin Iemon would eventually carry out, the premeditated murder of innocent Oiwa, a victim of circumstances connected with greed and class status. Practically every character within the film is miserable..perhaps a projected view of life during that time in a Japanese village. If you aren't part of a specific powerful clan or family, life can be difficult. I think films within the genre which focuses on the life of a samurai, you often see how important class status is. The character of Iemon properly exposes such a case, his misery is apparent and he wants out of the marriage, despite his feelings for Oiwa(..who had a miscarriage after falling from a stool;you also see, throughout the film, how clumsy she can be)seeing that a life with Oume means reclaiming honor and status, vital ingredients to a samurai.
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