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Bitter Honey (2016)

Mitsu no aware (original title)
Based on novelist Muro Saisei's 1959 book, Bitter Honey narrates the story of a poet who informed by his physician of his impending death finds renewed flights of fantasy. He is visited by ... See full summary »


Gakuryû Ishii


Saisei Murô (based on the novel by), Takehiko Minato


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Credited cast:
Fumi Nikaidô ... Akako Akai
Ren Osugi ... Ojisama (as Ren Ôsugi)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Seiko Iwaidô Seiko Iwaidô
Hanae Kan Hanae Kan
Kengo Kôra Kengo Kôra ... Ghost
Yôko Maki ... Yuriko Tamura
Masatoshi Nagase ... Fish Monger
Kiyohiko Shibukawa Kiyohiko Shibukawa
Koichi Ueda Koichi Ueda


Based on novelist Muro Saisei's 1959 book, Bitter Honey narrates the story of a poet who informed by his physician of his impending death finds renewed flights of fantasy. He is visited by a thin and attractive girl in red who becomes a catalyst for romance. The girl has to vie with competition for the artist's attention, however, as other women work in the wings. Bitter Honey's story is coloured by gorgeous photography as it explores sex, love, life and immortality. Written by aghaemi

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Drama | Fantasy | History


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Release Date:

1 April 2016 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Bitter Honey See more »

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Did You Know?


The film was part of the line-up at Japanese Canadian Film Festival in Toronto in 2016. See more »

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User Reviews

Fishing For A Dream
18 June 2016 | by aghaemiSee all my reviews

Director Gakuryû Ishii's Mitsu No Aware would literally be translated to 'Honey's Pity,' but since that sounds odd the English title has become Bitter Honey. The film is new in 2016, but is based on a novel by Japanese writer and poet Saisei Muro whose work is not adapted for film for the first time here. No less than director Mikio Naruse, for instance, had more than once used the author's literature for film. Model and actress Fumi Nikaidô is not well-known, outside Japanese TV drama circles, although her 2014 film My Man with Tadanobu Asano made a splash in Japan. Ren Ôsugi is perhaps known for Audition or Twilight Samurai and was also in the excellent Dolls. One could say he is almost everywhere.

Has anyone here watched either Journey To The Shore or The Girl Who Leapt Through Time? Japanese films - and the actors who inhabit them - have a habit of coming face-to-face with surreal and incredulous occurrences and barely batting an eye. Such is the story of a man and his goldfish 'kingyo' and other lovers here. A more relevant comparison perhaps is to the film Sakuran. After all there are the women, the sex, the refreshing and living colour palate and the goldfish within a gorgeous film. Nikaido must have trained for ballet if her nimbleness is any indication and speaking of which, the movie is like Classical music. It can alternately be up, down, angry, happy, soft, rancourous and generally emotional. While we are juxtaposing films and justifying analogies another pertinence is the older man/younger woman motif of films like Lolita of course, American Beauty and Beautiful Girls. In other words, it is too bad this Bitter Honey is Japanese for it could have been watched more widely - whether or not said younger lady is a fish or not.

Bitter Honey is not only the literary work of a poet and author adapted for the screen, but it is also about a poet and author and his fantastic and surreal relationship with a beautiful and coquettish girl who is erotic, supple, naive, occasionally brash and mysterious. Life is a series of experiences. We invent them if our reality does not match our expectation. The affair renders as complicated as a growing woman's coming of age if one does not want to use the phrase 'like a fish out of water' that is. Affectionately addressing her lover ojisama ('uncle') and herself atai (a cutesy 'I') the girl comes of age intellectually and emotionally ("daddy, let me be your lover") in parallel to the fiction of the writer. One might think the writer is an ichthyomaniac, but in fact we hear a voice, which we take to be the man's wife and encounter both his past and current other lovers. In the film there is also an appearance by the character of perhaps Japan's most famous writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa, which actually makes this film one written by a twentieth century writer about a writer featuring yet another writer. With me still?

The visuals and acting in Bitter Honey are convincing, attractive and amusing. Less successful are the story arch and the sound effects. We interpret the former as the correlation of a man striving for maturity and acceptance of his literature with the feelings and projections of a similarly fantastical young woman looking to find her way and gain satisfaction. The latter's effects quickly lose their novelty. As unsuccessful is the accompanying music of Bitter Honey. At its core, Bitter Honey is a film that demands its audience suspend disbelief and instead marvel at the novelty, capriciousness and the superior acting in and of itself.

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