Shinjû: Ten no Amijima (1969)
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- Double Suicide
- 142 min.
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Masahiro Shinoda's Double Suicide is an amazing piece of film-making, in particular in terms of style, but I think the fiasco of a romance at the center of the plot is interesting too. A paper merchant (a well chosen profession that allows for poetic language like his paper-thin excuses, etc.), though married, is in love with a courtesan; it is mutual. He longs to ransom her from the whore house, but it's too expensive and a richer men may steal her away. The thrust of the action is how they and their kindly allies (including the very moral wife) try to prevent them from carrying out their suicide pact. Melodrama to be sure, but the theatricality of the story and acting are well supported by equally theatrical sets, and Shinoda is very playful in his adaptation of what is an 18th-Century play usually performed with shadow puppets. As the film starts, we hear recorded phone calls between the director and his crew, planning out the film. Moving in, it feels like he's shooting a live play, with delivery we associate with No or kabuki, until we move in closer yet and things come alive more naturalistically. Set changes between acts are represented by fast cutting through empty sets. But my favorite part by far is the presence of figures clad in black, invisible to the characters, who act as a combination of stage hands, telekinetic movement, narrator-observers, and angels of death. They create striking images throughout, and I have to admit to being particularly tickled because I did an improv show once where we simulated superhero powers with what we called mime-jas (in French mimja was a better pun), similar figures who went around the set and played the role of "powers" (discussed it at https://siskoid.blogspot.com/2009/03/phantasmic-four.html ). Turns out WE INVENTED NOTHING! I bow to the fatalistic Shinoda in this matter. Wow.
Tells the story of a paper merchant who falls in love with a courtisane, bringing his family life into chaos.
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In 4 official lists
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This movie ranks #79 in Kinema Junpo's Top 200 Japanese Films
This movie ranks #108 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #145 in Tom Vick's Asian Cinema: A Field Guide
This movie ranks #833 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown