Kenji Misumi

Sog.: da un racconto di Seiichi Funahashi. Scen.: Teinosuke Kinugasa. F.: Hiroshi Imai. M.: Kanji Suganuma. Scgf.: Akira Naito. Mus.: Ichiro Saito. Int.: Fujiko Yamamoto (Komako Shirokoya), Katsuhiko Kobayashi (Chuhachi), Mieko Kondo (Ogin), Minoru Chiaki (Matashiro), Ryuzo Shimada (Tango Abe), Ganjiro Nakamura (Shozaburo Shirokoya), Chikako Hosokawa (Otsune Shirokoya), Fujio Murakami (Seizaburo), Ichiro Izawa (Seibei), Ryosuke Kagawa (Chobei Kagaya). Prod.: Masaichi Nagata per Daiei – 35mm. D.: 91’. Col.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Set in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1867), this tragic love story takes its cue from a celebrated historical case tried by magistrate Tadasuke Ooka, whose shrewd legal decisions became the stuff of legend. Okuma Shirokoya, the daughter of a lumber merchant in Edo (today’s Tokyo), embarked on an affair and was executed after conspiring with her maid to murder her husband.
The events served as the basis of several oral narratives and plays; as was normal practice due to Edo-era censorship codes, the names of the historical models were slightly altered in the adaptations. A version entitled Koi musume mukashi hachijo was performed in the bunraku puppet theatre in 1775 and in a kabuki version in 1776. A hundred years later, the story inspired another kabuki play, Tsuyu kosode mukashi hachijo, popularly known as Kamiyui Shinza (Shinza the Barber), familiar to Japanese cinephiles as the source for Sadao Yamanaka’s directorial swansong, Ninjo kamifusen (Humanity and Paper Balloons, 1937).
The “Kinema Junpo” critic described Misumi’s film as “a modern reinterpretation” of the famous narrative, and expected it to appeal to female audiences. The script was by Teinosuke Kinugasa, the director Misumi had assisted on Jigokumon; “Kinema Junpo” detected Kinugasa’s influence in the tempo and elegance of the direction. Hiroaki Yoshida praises the use of interior space to reflect the personal and social relations between the characters. Noting that some of the film’s key scenes are absent from the script and source material, he argues that Misumi can be considered their author. Fujiko Yamamoto, who also acted for Misumi in the same year’s Daibosatsu toge (Satan’s Sword), was a major star at Daiei, appearing in more than a hundred films in a mere decade between 1953 and 1963. She had a big hit with the last of many film adaptations of Koyo Ozaki’s moralistic novel Konjiki yasha (The Golden Demon, 1954), and won praise for incarnating “a new type of Kyoto woman” (Hitoaki Kono’s phrase) in Kozaburo Yoshimura’s Yoru no kawa (Night River, 1956), screened at Il Cinema Ritrovato in 2016. In the West she is probably best known for Ozu’s Higanbana (Equinox Flower, 1958), for which she was loaned to Shochiku. By the early 1960s, she was chafing at the terms of her contract, and infuriated Daiei’s formidable manager, Masaichi Nagata, by trying to renegotiate terms. He sacked her, and the other major studios closed ranks, ending her film career; she subsequently appeared only on television and on stage.

Alexander Jacoby e Johan Nordström

Copy From

courtesy of Kadokawa Corporation