Synopsis by Jonathan Crow
A masterpiece of Japanese New Wave cinema, renowned filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda directs this brilliant modernist reworking of a famous 1720 bunraku (puppet theater) play written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon. Set in Osaka in the 18th century, the film centers on the doomed romance between Jihei (Kichiemon Nakamura), a down and out married paper merchant passionately in love with doe-eyed courtesan Koharu (Shima Iwashita), whom he cannot afford to buy out of servitude. Koharu herself has also fallen in love with Jihei; she even starts turning away other patrons to be with him. Their love is further imperiled by Tahei (Hosei Komatsu), a rich, obnoxious merchant who flaunts his ability to buy Koharu's indenture. Suicide is the only way for the two to be together. Jihei's wife Osan (also played by Iwashita) senses the couple's intent and writes Koharu a letter pleading for his life. Touched by the sincerity of the letter, Koharu feigns reservations with killing herself, prompting Jihei to tearfully renounce her. Later, as Jihei skulks about the house as his wife runs the family business, he overhears that Tahei has at last bought his former lover's contract. Knowing that Koharu would just as soon kill herself, Osan -- the ideal of the dutiful wife -- offers Jihei her kimonos to pawn to save her husband's lover. Just as everything seems to be working out for the better, Osan's misinformed father bursts in just before Jihei is about to leave. The enraged old man cannot believe that Jihei is sacrificing his family for a prostitute and drags Osan away, demanding a divorce over Osan's protestations. Later, Jihei and Koharu--together at last--steal into the night, cut their hair -- absolving them from societal obligations -- and make love all night in a graveyard before they commit double suicide. This film won the prestigious Kinema Jumpo "Number One" prize for both Best Picture and Best Actresses.
geisha, love-triangle, merchant, prostitute/prostitution, puppet [doll], suicide, suicide-attempt, tragic-love, wife
High Artistic Quality