Woman of the Lake, directed by Yoshishige Yoshida, aka Kiju Yoshida, an influential member of the Japanese New Wave movement, is a lyrical, disquieting and beautifully shot meditation on urban alienation, existential crisis, marital fidelity, and the complex dynamics of love and lust. Yoshida established the basic premise of the film, based on a novel by Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata, within the first 15 minutes or so. Miyako (Mariko Okada), a 30-something strikingly beautiful married lady, is embroiled in a vacuous extra-marital affair with a young man. Even though she brushes off his advances for marriage – her husband is after all a rich man – she agrees to being photographed in the nude for him. Unfortunately, while on her way home in the night, her handbag, containing the damaging negatives, fall in the hands of a stranger. As expected, she is drawn into a game of blackmail when she’s instructed to board a train to another town to meet him; but, in a marvelous reversal to audience expectations, she’s drawn into a complex relationship with the man, which was reminiscent of Imamura’s Intentions of Murder (incidentally both had Shigeru Tsuyuguchi in similar roles). Yoshida infused the leisurely paced narrative with themes of loneliness and sexual frustration, and complemented them with melancholic tone, haunting imageries and long moments of silence. The expressionistic yet subdued (as opposed to high contrast) B/W photography, with its share of silhouettes and chiaroscuro, was the most striking aspects of this brilliant film with a superb central performance by Okada. In a gleefully self-reflexive touch, there is a B-film shoot sequence where the body double of the heroine is brazenly exploited by its makers.
Director: Yoshishige Yoshida
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Romance