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Tuesday, September 14, 2010


While only the later films of Japanese master Shohei Imamura received much attention in the West, his peak achievements may have come earlier, before his iconoclastic views of Japanese society hardened. (Ah, but so much remains unavailable!) This dark fable of warped family values undoubtedly places somewhere near the top. Masumi Harukawa, in a remarkable perf, is a tower of . . . inertia as the thick-skinned (and thick-waisted) wife & mother who’s still treated by her own family as the servant she once was. Her situation only gets worse when she is robbed & raped, then finds herself stalked by her unstable, but love-struck intruder. Would running away with such a man be madness? Some of the character psychology feels dated (or very ‘60s) and the jarring shift in tone & style for the last act adds a note of absurdity that (purposefully?) doesn’t match the rest of the film. But Imamura serves his material with a master’s hand, and helps Harukawa create that rarest of screen characters, a passive force of nature. The finished product may not have the strict logical development and consistent mood of Imamura’s PIGS AND BATTLESHIPS/’63, but it’s aim is broader & more humanistic.

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