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Japanese Divas

Saturday, August 13, 2011
6:30 p.m. Seisaku’s Wife
Yasuzo Masumura (Japan, 1965, starring Ayako Wakao)

(Seisaku no tsuma). The transgressive nature of desire itself makes woman the source of life in Masumura's films. Ayako Wakao interpreted this idea better than anyone, and she is fascinating in this antimilitarist drama, an engrossing portrait of village life that links blindness, war, and l'amour fou. The period is that of the Russo-Japanese War. Okane is a pariah in her small farming village. Sullen, depressed, having been abused most of her short life, she is brought around by the unlikely attentions of Seisaku (Takahiro Tamura), the local "model youth," on his return from the army. "The Imperial prescript says to love one another," and so he begins a love affair with Okane that eventually will render him as marginal as she. The beautifully choreographed sensuality of the rebel lovers contrasts profoundly with inexorable militarism made palpable. Loneliness has made Okane an agent for her own compelling passion; looking forward to Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses, she commits the ultimate antiwar act.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Kaneto Shindo, based on a story by Kojiro Yoshida. Photographed by Tomohiro Akino. With Ayako Wakao, Takahiro Tamura, Yuka Konno, Yuzo Hayakawa. (93 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 'Scope, 35mm, PFA Collection, permission Kadokawa Pictures)