Life of a pornographer who tries to stay under the radar of the mob. He has a mistress, a step-son, a step-daughter (whom he's attracted to) and a wife who believes her first husband was reincarnated as a restless carp.
Near the turbulent end of the Edo era, a man returning to Japan after exile in America searches for his wife and becomes swept up in the current of revolution in this incisive period drama from the great Shohei Imamura.
In a poor 19th century rural Japanese village, everyone who reaches the age of 70 has to climb a nearby mountain to die. An old woman is getting close to the cut-off age, and we follow her last days with her family.
Also known as Intentions of Murder, this marks my sixth Imamura film and my appreciation for this Japanese filmmaker continues to grow. I rank him with Kurosawa among the Japanese greats. To think Hollywood has only recently been appropriating what Imamura was pioneering back in the 60's and that Imamura's film has a scarce 195 votes I believe is almost unethical.
That a loveless housewife married to an abusive husband who cheats on her should fall in love with the thief who breaks in her house one night and rapes her and the resulting movie is neither played for laughs nor reduced to hokey melodrama is a testament to the creative force at hand.
Imamura's uncanny ability to find the absurd in the mundane, the blackly comedic in the serious and the humane in the bleak and hopeless, this curious heady mix, eccentric but not for the sake of it, with which the director as sympathetic anthropologist handpicks his characters from the lowest strata of society, observes their struggles, triumphs and follies (like the shots of mice running aimlessly inside their cage he uses in the movie - animals, a usual if not subtle metaphor for Imamura), not with the detached amused air of the cynic (like the Coens tend to do), not to present them as quirks to amuse the sophisticated cineaste too inhibited to even aknowledge the trappings in himself, but truthfully, honestly, with a hint of sadness but never without humour to admire their downfall when they succumb at the last to their animalistic desires.
Beautifully filmed, daring in its New Wave experimentation, its dynamic shots (the camera peering from improbable angles, through doorways, inside tunnels, along with moving trains), its great use of the widescreen canvas, its sound design. Recommended for fans of the director's work and anyone interested in Japanese New Wave cinema.
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