In Naruse's next to last film, he returned to cinemascope format, but stayed with black and white film. This is once again, in terms of plot, a bit of a shocker. Soon after we meet Kuniko (a young widow, played by Hideko Takamine) and her much-beloved young only son, the boy is run over by Kinuko (played by Yoko Tsukasa the rich spoiled wife of an automobile executive). Kinuko, it turns out, was distracted at the time of the accident because her companion in the car, a hunkish younger man who is her lover, had just told her of his plan to soon begin a far-away job. Kinuko tells her husband of the accident (but not the precipitating cause), and he orders the corporate chauffeur (Yutaka Sada, who was also the unfortunate chauffeur in "High and Low"). Luckily for him, he gets off with a small fine and a suspended sentence.
Kuniko is disgusted, and while drowning her post-trial sorrows at a bar with her yakuza-ish younger brother, overhears an old lady discussing the accident with her friends, mention that "lady drivers are so dreadful". As it turns out, the old lady was an eyewitness -- and can describe the real hit and run driver. However, because the case has already been satisfactorily closed, the police take no interest in the story of Kuniko and her witness. Consequently, Kuniko decides to seek revenge on her own. She wangles her way into the executive's household as a temporary domestic servant and because she is so devoted, soon gets hired as a live-in maid, on a more permanent basis. While there, she fantasizes methods of taking revenge against the rich couple's son (almost the same age as her own dead one). Kuniko actually makes a few furtive (but thwarted) attempts to carry out her plan of revenge against the boy. But, as she grows increasingly fond of him, she wonders whether she shouldn't take revenge directly against his guilty mother instead. Meanwhile, Kinuko is growing increasingly distraught over the impending departure of her lover.
Since this is a suspense thriller, I'll refrain from discussing the plot further.
This film is unique in Naruse's output in that it not only makes frequent use of flashbacks (far more common in these late films than in earlier ones), but also actually depicts Kuniko's fantasies (these are shown in very bright, very whitened tones). This technique turns out to be crucial in deciphering what actually happens at the climax of the film. It would seem that Takanine was not entirely comfortable with her part in this film as, from time to time, she resorts to more generic acting than was her norm. Not an entirely successful film, by any means, but nonetheless quite an interesting one.
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