Onna no mizuumi (1966)

1 03 2009

A step up from Flame and Woman but I still have yet to be as impressed with a Yoshida film as I was with The Affair. I suppose I’ll always have a bias for that film as it served as an introduction into his cinematic world. Based on my last two Yoshida experiences, I’m beginning to think that he repeated himself a little bit too often. The narrative here comes close to lapsing into self-parody. A woman has an affair and a man tries to blackmail her? It’s so obviously a “Yoshida story” that it feels a little bit forced. Thankfully, Yoshida’s wonderful visuals and a great performance by Mariko Okada save the film was being tainted by some of its less savory elements.

Another problem I’m developing with Yoshida is his perchance for overt “weirdness” which comes on far too strong in this film. I admit, the narrative isn’t all that captivating to me in the first place (if only because I feel like I’ve seen it before) but the overuse of “surreal” music does nothing to help the film’s case. All of Yoshida’s films would have benefited greatly from a much less expressive soundtrack. The tone here is very Lynch-ian, but it’s almost entirely because of the music. Had Yoshida just used natural sounds, this would be a deadpan masterpiece. It’s bad enough that the atmosphere is forced down the audience throat, but its worse because it is developed so half-heartedly.

Having said all that, this is still pretty fantastic, if only for Yoshida’s pitch-perfect balance between extended hand held tracking shots and more precise shots along the lines of Antonioni. The only non-Yoshida film I can think of that achieves a similar balance is 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days of all things. It should say a lot that it took more than 40 years for people to catch up with Yoshida. I may never develop an interest in his repetitive narratives, but the way in which they are executed, is absolutely brilliant.

Yoshida, thankfully, has more than just formal brilliance to fall back. He also has his wife, Mariko Okada, one of Japan’s greatest performers of all-time. She’s excellent here. Truth be told, she’s not doing much different from her other collaborations with her husband, but she manages to impressive me anyway. Combine her physical beauty with the poetry of Yoshida’s visuals and the result is something gorgeous, even if the context isn’t all that fascinating.



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