Sunday 4 August 2013

Double Suicide [1969]

The idea of lovers’ suicide, or shinju, must have been an enduring one in Japanese folklore if 3 of the last 4 Japanese films I saw is anything to go by – Wakamatsu’s Go, Go Second Time Virgin, Oshima Violence at Noon, and Shinoda hugely acclaimed work and appropriately titled Double Suicide. This seminal New Wave film, adapted from a kabuki play, was a modernist and stylized fusion of bunraku elements with the cinematic form. It begins with puppeteers preparing for a play on two lovers who, as the last resort to stay together forever, kill themselves. We are then taken into that play with the puppets replaced by humans, but the strings that manipulate and control their motions, present in the form of dark-robed people in the background, although the characters are oblivious to their presence. Set in the late-17th century, the story is about the ill-fated romance between Jihei (Kichiemon Nakamura), a married paper merchant, and Koharu (Shima Iwashita), a courtesan. Upon a request made by his devoted wife (also played by Iwashita), she lets the lovelorn man go. But when news of a vile and wealthy merchant buying out her servitude reaches his ears, and with he being unable to redeem her, the two decide on what we were informed of in advance. The doomed love story, with its share of deliberate theatrical performances, was complemented by Shinoda’s self-conscious formal deconstruction, stunning B/W photography and the traditional score. The presence of the stagehands or kuroku apart, even the artificiality of the sets were made obvious from the start, as was the allusion on fates of characters in a work of art, and in turn the audience too, being manipulated by its author.

Director: Masahiro Shinoda
Genre: Drama/Romance/Avant-Garde
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan

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