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Onna no naka ni iru tanin / The Stranger Within a Woman (Mikio NARUSE, 1966)
Although Naruse demonstrated mastery of both color and cinemascope in his 60s films, he reverted to black-and-white Academy format for his antepenultimate film. Perhaps this use of a conservative format was intended to counterbalance the fact that this film involves the most shocking plot of any Naruse film to date.
Again the film focuses on an ostensibly normal family father (plauyed by Keiju Kobayashi), mother (Michiyo Aratama) and two adorable young children. Tragedy strikes the family of their best friends (Tatsuya Mihashi and Mitsuko Kusabue) soon after the film begins, the wife of this childless couple is found murdered in her bed. Through flashbacks and confessions, it is gradually revealed that Kobayashi and Kusabue were carrying on an affair and that she enjoyed "rough sex" (which one day went too far, ending in her accidental death). Aratama's goal is too keep her husband from confessing, and ruining the family's honor and comfortable middle-class existence. He, however, is subject to ever-increasing throes of guilt and remorse. Aratama is left with the dilemma of what to do....
This film is as visually striking as it is sensational in terms of plot. Despite the out-of-the-ordinary subject matter, Naruse typically tends to downplay any sense of hysteria treating the events almost as if they depict just another little slice of ordinary suburban life. A fascinating film albeit more reminiscent of Nomura's work than of the "typical" Naruse film.
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