Synopsis by Jonathan Crow
Following the release of his Minbo No Onna -- less a film than a textbook on how to extricate oneself from yakuza harassment -- veteran director Juzo Itami was attacked and almost killed by the mob for his effort. In this crime-comedy, he voices his outrage at the attack, which he viewed as an attack on his right for self-expression. The film centers on Hiwako (played, as always, by Itami's wife, Nobuko Miyamoto), a grand dame of the stage who witnesses a murder while exercising on a lonely country road. The victim turns out to be a lawyer who was snooping around in a shadowy cult clearly modeled on the subway-gassing sect Aum Shinrikyo. Hiwako manages to get a good look at the perpetrator's face and identifies him as a cult member. Later, she volunteers to testify in court. Hiwako also makes the mistake of informing the media of her plans, which of course alerts the cult -- making her a marked woman. Accordingly, a pair of cops are assigned to protect her: overly perky Chikamatsu (Takehiro Murata) who is a major fan of Hiwako's, and the strong but silent Tachibana (Masahiko Nishimura), who is not. Considering the bodyguard duo as unwanted intrusion, Hiwako resumes her live as a spoiled diva and continues to see her secret lover (Masahiko Tsugawa). Then the cult starts to play hard ball; her secret liaison is suddenly splashed on every tabloid in the land, followed by threats on her life. Marutai No Onna proved to be the last film of Itami's long and checkered career, he died of an apparent suicide in the winter of 1997.