Sunday, 17 August 2014
The Inheritance 
Kobayashi followed up his monumental magnum opus ‘The Human Condition’ trilogy, and preceded his renowned Samurai film Harakiri, with The Inheritance – no wonder, it got lost in the process. Dark, tense, nihilistic, filled with wry but pungent humour, and set in contemporary urban Japan, this superb film provided a grotesque picture of incessant greed, jealousy, self-centeredness, lust, corruption, and propensity for deceit and violence that remains cloaked under fragile veneers of civility and decency. An aged business tycoon (So Yamamura), upon learning of being afflicted with a terminal disease, decides to re-draft his will wherein 1/3rd of his immense fortunes would go to his much younger wife (Misako Watanabe), a cold and scheming femme fatale, and the balance to his three illegitimate children. He employs his subordinates, an unctuous lawyer, a couple of unreliable associates (one of them played by Tatsuya Nakadai), and his coy secretary Yasuko (Keiko Kishi), to locate his children and decide if they are worthy of the endowments. As can be expected in a situation such as this, they start finding ways of getting hold of the wealth themselves, while at the same time trying to hoodwink and out-smart one another in the process. Yasuko, for most parts, seemed to be the only decent character, but as the excellent opening montage had given indications and her convenient moving-in with the dying man, despite his failing potency, furthered that, she might just have the necessary guile to win this nefarious and twisted race to the finish. The sparkling and expressionistic B/W cinematography, and the brilliant but low-key jazz score, added sensual dimensions to this bleak, noirish and delicious morality play.
Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Post-Noir