Near the turbulent end of the Edo era, a man returning to Japan after exile in America searches for his wife and becomes swept up in the current of revolution in this incisive period drama from the great Shohei Imamura.
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.
An impossible tale. Taro, an old man who dies homeless in Tokyo has told Yosuke, a weak-willed out-of-work salaryman about a golden statue that he left years ago in a house by the sea in Noto. Yosuke goes and he's captivated by Saeko, a young women who lives in the house where Taro left the statue. She has a strange affliction: water builds up in her and she can only vent it by wicked acts, such as shoplifting, or, more powerfully, through orgasm. Yosuke obliges, the water gives him life, as well as the plants and fish it reaches. Saeko feels shame, and she has a past. Taro's ghost urges Yosuke to fulfill his desires, but can the relationship survive?Written by
IT'S CERTAINLY AN IMAMURA'S FILM BUT NOT AS HE USED TO MAKE THEM
In many ways this is a distinctively Imamura's film. It contains many of the themes characteristic of his oeuvre: His obsession with sex, women and Japanese mythology. WWURB's story somehow mirrors Unagi. The main character of both films, a salariman, for different reasons end up leaving the city for the countryside and establish a relationship with strange women and with the peculiar villagers. But these similarities can also be applied to any of his other films. With a persistent disregard for a clear and logical narrative, many of his films amount to anecdotes and observations made by the characters, some of them appearing and disappearing inexplicably. Take as example the Insect Woman or The Pornographers in the 60s or the historical films Zegen and Eijanaika that he made in the 80s. Imamura has portrayed sex, in most of his films, as something positive even beneficial and in several ones he has acknowledged incest (Insect Woman, The Pornographers and The Profound Desired of the Gods) as part of traditional rural Japan without criticising it. In WWURB Taro (Kitamura Kazuo), the homeless who Yosuke (Yakusho Koji), recently unemployed, befriends seems to be Imamura's alter ego. He advises Yosuke to have sex as much as he can as long as he can keep his instrument up and explains of the beneficial (physically and mentally) qualities of sex and its importance throughout the history of humanity. Sex is closely linked with nature and being suggested as the main essence of life. The film also points to the power of women, so the enormous amount of water produced by Saeko (Shimizu Misa), when having sex with Yosuke, that falls in the river seems to be so rich that attracts fish and seagulls. Saeko's body fluids can also the solution for the purification of the contaminated river. An attempt to cure the river was made by her mother, the village's shaman but was ostracised by the villagers for her use of unscientific methods. Eventually she drowned in the river when trying to perform a ritual. Saeko's grandmother Mitsu (Mitsuko Baisho) seems to possess some sort of clairvoyant power. The conflict between, and eventual loss of, ancestral beliefs (pre-Shinto and pre-Buddhist culture) and modern Japan is also another important characteristic of Imamura's work. In early Japan women, as some were actually shamans, took an active role in religious, social and political matters. Things changed with the advent of Buddhism (religion) and Confucianism (politics and social ethics).
Yosuke is warned by some villagers that he will dry up and lose his vital essence if he keeps on having his sexual encounters with Saeko. He is an outsider from modern Japan, Tokyo, who gets involved with women that represent primitive Japan, a Japan of sexual freedom, finally accepting their customs and beliefs. As Taro tells Yosuke "Drown yourself in a woman's arms, be faithful to your desires without worrying about daily cares." In this sense he is like Kariya, an engineer from Tokyo, who goes to Kurage, a Southern island of Japan, in "The Profound 'Desire' of the Gods". He is believed to be a "god from overseas" by the island's community. After showing little concern for local customs and traditions he marries Toriko, a retarded young woman who epitomised primitive Japan, all sexual freedom, and sister of the island's shaman. So WWURB is certainly a charming, sometimes funny, sometimes kinky film but that lacks the power, challenge and innovation of Imamura's previous films. Certainly the ones made before Black Rain (Kuroi Ame). Still it is worth pointing out that the issue of sex doesn't seem to be a major concern for younger Japanese filmmakers with the exception of Miike Takashi (with his special way of dealing with the subject) and I cannot remember of any sex scene in any of the films I have seen by these directors.
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