Monday 9 September 2013

Flame and Woman (1967)

Flame and Woman was a fascinating and challenging member in Yoshida’s so-called “anti-melodramas” – a series of six stylistically dazzling and thematically complex films, each starring his luminously beautiful muse and wife Mariko Okada, that he made after severing his ties with Shochiku. In the fourth entry in the series Yoshida used the topic of artificial insemination to probe deeply psychological questions and analyze the moral dilemma therein. Like the masterful previous entry, The Affair, as well as the next film, Affair in the Snow, potency, or its lack thereof, was a key topic here as well. Ritsuko (Okada) and Shingo are a well-off married couple. Despite being childless on account of his sterility, she is contended with their marriage and status quo. However he desperately wants a child, and though she is opposed to the idea of bearing someone else’s child, he manages to convince her. His doctor friend, who himself is in a sterile marriage, becomes the donor. However, once the little Takashi arrives in their life, it starts alienating the once devoted wife from her husband. She embarks on a journey of self-introspection as her psyche is troubled by conflicting emotions ranging from guilt to anger, and accentuated by the fact that her son’s biological father starts getting drawn towards her. Yoshida brilliantly complemented the film’s psychological and moral concerns with the stupendous photography. It was filmed in expressionistic B/W, it made terrific use of shadows and silhouettes, and was shot mostly in low-angles or high-angles; these combined to provide visual dimensions to the characters’ psychological turmoil, and very well emphasized its brooding tone. The acting was evenly good, but Okada stood out for her simmering turn as the fast imploding lady.

Director: Yoshishige Yoshida
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Marital Drama
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan


Sam Juliano said...

Ah, this is a rare Yoshida I have not seen to this point, but as always greatly appreciate the estimable scholarship.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. And yes, suffice it to say, I'd strongly recommend this psychologically incisive & excellently photographed Yoshida to you.