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Countercurrents: The Films of Yasuzo Masumura

Saturday, October 4, 1997
Yasuzo Masumura Japan, 1964

Manji, an adaptation of Junichiro Tanizaki's erotic novel, is a perfect demonstration of critic Tadao Sato's assertion about Masumura: "A sense of anguish...shows through the laughter...together with the almost abnormal and wild behavior of his characters-people trying to overcome adversity. Masumura portray[s] people with strong egos, and through their apparently mad behavior, he forces Japanese viewers to ponder about the true nature of human beings." Kyoko Kishida portrays a housewife and art student who falls in love with a young and sexually mysterious woman (Ayako Wakao). Into this relationship she pours all her passion and affection, until her husband, a lawyer, is himself drawn into the web of desire the two women have formed, throwing the wife's assertion of selfhood into painful ambiguity. Masumura moves from lurid expectation to matter-of-factness, to a haunting domesticity of desire that prefigures Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses.

• Written by Kaneto Shindo, based on the novel by Junichiro Tanizaki. Photographed by Setsuo Kobayashi. With Ayako Wakao, Kyoko Kishida, Eiji Funakoshi, Yusuke Kawazu. (91 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, Color, 'Scope, 35mm, From The Japan Foundation, permission Daiei)