Plastics salesman Oshima disappeared without a word to anyone, and has been missing for two years. Shohei Imamura and his crew follow Oshima's fiancé Yoshie and actor Shigeru Tsuyuguchi as they investigate the disappearance.
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.
Amorality in Japan. Tome is born into poverty in rural Japan, in the late 1910s. Chuji, her father, dotes on her; her mother is less faithful. Tome becomes a neighbor's mistress, works at his mill as World War II rages, and has a daughter. After an affair with a mill supervisor, Tome goes to Tokyo to seek her fortune. She leaves the child, Nobuko, in Chuji's care. Tome's a maid at a brothel, learns trade from the madam, enjoys the protection of a businessman whose mistress she becomes, and is soon herself the boss. As Chuji ages and Nobuko grows up with her own ideas, can Tome's self-preserving schemes provide continued comfort? Or will the mice scamper over her?Written by
The Insect Woman (the original title translates to Entomological Chronicles of Japan) is possibly the most ambitious out of Shohei Imamura's B&W films. It's a near-epic historical drama with a satirical undertone, jumpy storytelling and a wide array of characters. It stars Sachiko Hidari, one of the best Japanese actresses of the '60s, in a role of her lifetime, and the rest of the cast is usually compiled out of Imamura's regulars, like Jitsuko Yoshimura, known for Imamura's Pigs and Battleships and Shindo's Onibaba.
Imamura's films, especially this one, Intentions of Murder and The Ballad of Narayama, like to compare the various types of people with respective animals. This movie starts with a beetle trying to climb a mountain of dirt and ends with a shot of the protagonist, Tome, trying to get on the top of a hill. So why exactly does Imamura compare her with insects? Because throughout all her schemes and woes, her moments of being oppressed and being the oppressor in a chaotic society that's hard to adapt to, she never really gets anywhere, or if she does, it's temporary. She is forced to repeat her mistakes over and over again and adapt to the fast-moving world as best as she can. Even her lineage is cyclical; she was born a bastard child, had a bastard child, and then her bastard child got a bastard child.
The movie's plot spans throughout the first half of the 20th century and Tome herself is almost paralleled with Japan itself, as she goes from a simple peasant girl to a crafty businessman. Imamura was fascinated with irrationality, sensuality and passion still alive in traditional Japan, and Tome, like many of his heroines, is a personification of that animalistic lifestyle. Imamura's characters are passionate, sexual, hot- blooded, fickle, adaptable and impulsive, and his the way he portrays women is almost like a counterpoint to Mizoguchi's typical fallen woman who sacrifices herself for whatever she has in life. Imamura's characters will do anything to get ahead, but they still have their basic moral codes and principles to keep them going.
The cinematography is, like in Imamura's other stuff, "messy", as he liked to call it. The stillness, taming and concealment of naturalistic tendencies of his mentor Ozu's films are replaced by stuffed shots of various sources of light, multiple characters on screen at once, and a chaotic exchange of camera techniques imitating the characters' hasty libidos, making the movie look very modern. This is, for example, noticeable in the sect headquarters scenes (more like The In-Sect Woman! Ha!). Another interesting thing about the movie is how ballsy it is concerning the depiction of themes like poverty and incest (more like The Incest Woman! OK, I'll show myself out now...), especially for the time.
This is the epitome of a "good" movie. A straight pace, excellent photography, believable acting, the underlying messages and a dash of modernity all make it a good film by all standards. The only factor by which anyone could really rate it is whether or not the story interested them or not.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this