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Double Suicide (1969)
"Shinjû: Ten no Amijima" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  11 February 1970 (USA)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 1,132 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 20 critic

Tragedy is inevitable when a married merchant falls in love with a prostitute.

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Title: Double Suicide (1969)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kichiemon Nakamura ...
Jihei
...
Koharu / Osan
Shizue Kawarazaki ...
Osan's mother
Tokie Hidari ...
Osugi
Sumiko Hidaka ...
Proprietress
Yûsuke Takita ...
Magoemon
Hôsei Komatsu ...
Tahei
Takashi Sue ...
Store owner
Masashi Makita ...
Guest
Makoto Akatsuka ...
Sangorô
Unko Uehara ...
Otama
Shinji Tsuchiya ...
Kantarô
Kaori Tozawa ...
Osue
Yoshi Katô ...
Gosaemon
Kamatari Fujiwara ...
Denbei
Edit

Storyline

In 18th Century in Japan, the paper merchant Jihei (Kichiemon Nakamura) falls in love for the courtesan Koharu (Shima Iwashita), but he can not afford to redeem her from her master and owner of the brothel, since he spent all his money in the place with Koharu. Jihei's wife Osan tries to keep her husband with his two children and asks Koharu to leave him. The two lovers make a pact of double suicide to escape from the rigid rules of the Japanese society of 1720 and stay together after death. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

11 February 1970 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Double Suicide  »

Company Credits

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,  »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Connections

Referenced in 100 Years of Japanese Cinema (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Shakesperean clash between duty and love
17 October 2008 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

Based on a 18th century bunraku play (Japanese form of puppet theater) by Chikamatsu, Double Suicide revolves around the star-crossed love of paper merchant Jihei and courtesan Koharu. The problem in Jihei's case however is twofold. First he's a married man and second he can't afford to pay the brothel Koharu works in and redeem her. In the face of their unrequisite and impossible love, Jihei and Koharu decide to commit suicide together - the inevitably tragic conclusion the title refers to.

Double Suicide is a three-act filmed play but it's director Masahiro Shinoda's command of the craft that transforms it into something more. Since the original is a bunraku puppet play, he opens the film with modern bunraku actors preparing for it and after the credits sequence switches the puppets for real actors.

The puppet masters however remain present for the entire movie, dressed in black suits, looking all the same, mute and mostly motionless, like artificial props and part of the set decoration they're charged with changing. Indeed they remove and change sets, actively take part in the action and interact with the actors and even freeze narrative time for our convenience but the best part (and a testament to Shinoda's talent) is that they never call attention to themselves as a gimmick.

They blend seamlessly with the combination of traditional and abstract painted sets and there are times you forget they're even present in the scene until they move. What they do mostly however is observe. Shinoda's direction is as usual perfect - enhanced by Criterion's pristine transfer, Double Suicide is a feast for the eyes shot in stark black and white, where the black is black and the white is white.

Related to Shinoda's excellent directorial skills, a common conception about him is that he's a director easy to admire but hard to love. I think Double Suicide effectively combines the best of both worlds - the technical prowess of a master cinematician with a touching and tragic love story, with universal roots but a very traditionally Japanese approach - the conflict between duty (giri) and passion (ninjo).


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