An entomologist searching for insects by the seaside is trapped by local villagers into living with a widow whose life task is digging up sand for them. He eventually develops strong feelings for her as his hope for escape dims.
An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn.
A private detective is hired to find a missing man by his wife. Contradictory evidence and the lack of clues soon render the case as virtually unsolvable, as the detective grows more and more frustrated.
Jumpei Niki, a Tokyo based entomologist and educator, is in a poor seaside village collecting specimens of sand insects. As it is late in the day and as he has missed the last bus back to the city, some of the local villagers suggest that he spend the night there, they offering to find him a place to stay. That place is the home of a young woman, whose house is located at the bottom of a sand pit accessible only by ladder. He later learns that the woman's husband and child died in a sandstorm, their undiscovered bodies buried somewhere near the house. The next morning as he tries to leave, he finds that the ladder is gone - he realizing that the ladder he climbed down was a rope ladder which is anchored above the pit - meaning that he is trapped with the young woman as the walls of the pit are sand with no grip. He also realizes that this entrapment was the villagers and the young woman's plan for him to stay there permanently to be her helper in the never-ending task of digging out ... Written by
I'd wanted to see this movie for years, and finally got around to it, on DVD. What a treat! I was glad to discover that the erotic element, though important, is not the predominant draw here; typically, some references to the film make it sound as though it were some forbidden erotic romp, or full of perverse sexuality. Instead I found myself wrapped up in a creepy suspense-thriller sci-fi-fantasy carried off with wit, style, and extraordinarily interesting photography (including one scene that, at least on my set, was completely black for a couple of minutes).
I voted "nine" for this wonderful film, in part because it left me with a lot to think about, in part just for how well it was made. The music by Toru Takemitsu is absolutely perfect for the task, too.
This is just about my favorite kind of film: one that raises important questions about human life, but not at the expense of entertainment. It's as close as I'll probably ever come to having my cake and eating it, too.
Update, January 2007: I finally obtained my own DVD of this film, one with much higher quality photographic reproduction. I now marvel even more at the extraordinarily creative photography. Be sure, if you view this on DVD, not to boost your set's brightness: I can assure you the film is very, very dark on purpose. If possible, see it on a high-definition monitor. Today, I'd vote "ten."
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