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The mother of a feudal lord's only heir is kidnapped away from her husband by the lord. The husband and his samurai father must decide whether to accept the unjust decision, or risk death to get her back.
Tsuma to shite onna to shite / As a Wife, As a Woman (Mikio NARUSE, 1961).
Keijiro and Ayako Kono (Masayuki Mori and Chikage Awashima) seem like a picture-book upper middle-class family. He is a respected professor and the couple has two amiable children (a high school-aged girl and middle school-aged boy). But the Kono's domestic siutuation is more complicated than it seems on the surface. The children are actually the illegitimate children of Kono's long-time mistress, Miho (Hideko Takamine). To compensate for giving up the children, the Konos subsidize a bar which Miho operates. Ayako, interested in eliminating her husband's continuing interest in Miho, pays the bar girls to "spy" on Miho, in the hope of showing Miho is not "faithful" to her husband. Miho becomes tired of the situation, and proposes that she break off relations with Kono but be given outright owner ship of the bar. After Ayako flatly rejects this (not wanting to bear the expense), Miho's mother (played by the delightfully redoubtable Choko Iida) suggests that, for leverage, Miho demand the children back. This proposal infuriates Ayako, and she decides to sell the bar out from under Miho. Miho retaliates by telling her son (who thinks she is only a somewhat engaging but disreputable friend of her parents) about his true parentage. He comes home distraught and locks himself into his room; when his big sister persuades him to let her in, he tells her the truth in turn. The two children angrily reject all three "parents". Afterwards, Miho and her mother are seen packing up their belongings, in preparation for a move to more humble quarters and a new job as operators of a street vendor stall. Miho's mother nonetheless sings cheerfully as she packs. To Miho's complaint that singing is out of place under the circumstances, her mother replies that she likes to sing and things can't be helped by not singing. As the final scene, we see the two children in different school uniforms at a new school, it appears that they demanded to be sent away to boarding school so as to avoid having to deal (at least for a while) with the problematic adults in their lives.
The color cinemascope photography here ( by Jun Yasumoto, who shot Yamanaka's wonderful "Million Ryo Pot" in the 30s and films by Naruse, Inagaki, Toyoda and Ichikawa therafter) is superb. The initial frosty civility and subsequent savage hostility between Ayako and Miho is masterfully handled by Takamine and Awashima. And the mother-daughter interactions between Choko Iida and Takamine are quite delightful (including a number of impromptu "duets"). A Naruse masterpiece that clearly deserves to be better known.
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