"The Mistress" (also known in English under the title "Wild Geese") is an example of all that is great about Japanese cinema prior to its decline in the 1960s. It is pictorially exquisite, leisurely paced but never dull, well-acted with just the right amount of melodrama, and directed by a master in top form. The director, Shiro Toyoda, is a superb Japanese film director that has yet to be discovered in the West, though a few of his films such as "The Mistress" and the far inferior "Snow Country" can be found on video.
"The Mistress" is the story of a young woman whose relationships with men in the past have been stormy, and who finds herself once again in a bad situation. She becomes the mistress of a wealthy moneylender, believing him to be a merchant who has been recently widowed and that he will soon marry her. She discovers his lies but cannot leave him because of the money he has given to her elderly father. Soon she falls in love with a student that passes by her house every day on the way home, but their relationship ends before it even begins when he is accepted as an apprentice to a doctor in Germany.
"The Mistress" is a beautifully shot film that captures with subtlety and grace the central character's tragedy through its images. It is also an admirable film for its restraint in not descending into the pit of tear-jerking sentimentality that so many Japanese films of the period (even some of the good ones) so frequently did. "The Mistress" is a film that any director would be proud to have made - it is a masterpiece.
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