From a tale by Renzaburo Shibata. Scen.: Seiji Hoshikawa. F.: Chikashi Makiura. M.: Kanji Suganuma. Scgf.: Shigenori Shimoishizaka. Mus.: Hajime Kaburagi. Int.: Raizo Ichikawa (Hanpei), Michiko Sugata (Osaki), Goro Mutsumi (Tomozo), Kentaro Kodo (Asuzo), Rokko Toura (Masanobu Unno), Ryutaro Gomi (monaco komuso), Asao Uchida (Yaichiro Daigo), Kei Sato (Kikuma Kanbe). Prod.: Mitsuru Tanabe, Shiro Kaga per Daiei – DCP. D.: 83’. Col.
This is one of the most persuasive illustrations of the feminine sensibility that critics detected in Misumi’s work, justifying the Little Mizoguchi nickname. It was one of two 1967 films (the other was Kotoyushu: Ane imoto/The Sisters and I) in which stars Chiho Fujimura (b. 1939) and Kiku Wakayanagi (aka Hiroko Shikanai, b. 1942) played sisters under Misumi’s direction; Fujimura had also played the crucial role of the mother in Kiru.
Both films were scripted by Mizoguchi’s regular screenwriter, Yoshikata Yoda (1909-91), himself renowned for his ability to create convincing and sympathetic female characterisations. The film’s plot was derived from short stories by Shugoro Yamamoto (1903-67), a prolific author of popular fiction with a historical setting. Yamamoto had a modest enough view of his talents to decline a prestigious literary prize on the grounds that he did not write serious literature. Nevertheless, Akira Kurosawa was a fan, and based Tsubaki Sanjuro, Akahige (Red Beard, 1965) and Dodes’ka-den (1970) on Yamamoto’s fiction, as well as the script for Ame agaru (After the Rain, 1999, filmed by Takashi Koizumi after Kurosawa’s death). Masaki Kobayashi too drew on one of his novels for Inochi bo ni furo (Inn of Evil, 1971). Set during the latter part of the Edo Period, in the early 19th century, Misumi’s film focuses on sisters Oshizu (Fujimura) and Otaka (Wakayanagi), who have been caring for their ailing father. Otaka falls in love, but custom impedes her marriage, since the elder sister is expected to marry first… For the “Kinema Junpo” reviewer, the film’s theme was “the beauty of self-sacrifice”, inflected through the candid temperament associated with Edo. Misumi elicits finely nuanced performances from his stars, creating a strikingly modern characterisation for Fujimura, and imbues the film with depth via an adept use of closeups and the cinematic potential of traditional Japanese architecture. With plot elements suggestive of romantic comedy, this unusual but effective work shows a side to the director rarely acknowledged in the West.
Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordström