• Warning: Spoilers
    Viewed on DVD. Restoration = nine (9) stars; cinematography/effects =nine (9) stars; translation/subtitles = four (4) stars; score = two (2) stars. Director Shouhei Imamura upends conventional contemporary film practices by showcasing strong women characters and wimpy male ones. Bravo! The evolution of leading actress Masumi Harukawa's character is the plot. She starts off as a lowly common-law wife former household maid (fresh off the farm) and ultimately achieves everything (and a bit more) on her "things-to-do" list of life goals. It is humorous to watch Harukawa (often referred to as a "large women" in line readings) fake being abused/ dominated by her male co-stars who appear physically smaller and play sickly characters to boot (one has a serious asthma (or TB?) affliction; the other an incapacitating weak heart) when she could easily flatten them both (perhaps simultaneously!). Supporting actresses also deliver strong performances (including an obsessive/comedic one). Imamura's direction is fine, but his simulated sex scenes (meant to show Harukawa's sexual power and her growing awareness of same?) are boringly repetitious and far from artful. Voice-over expository usually indicates that post-production editing has tried to compensate for inadequate direction. But not for this film. The Director inserts Harukawa's commentary (while freezing the frame) to provide a window into her thought processes as her power becomes self evident to her character. Cinematography (wide screen, black & white) and special effects are outstanding. Dolly (tracking) sequences are often remarkable and rear screen projections can be virtually flawless (its hard to tell if an exterior has been shot on a sound stage or on location). Scenes photographed at floor level are for the most part effective in that they are "interesting" and do not distract the viewer from what is being performed. Lighting is a bit on the dark side until the snow scenes which occur toward the end of the film. A fair amount of back ground dialog is not subtitled. Some translations are too long and appear on screen too briefly. The "score" is a borderline "joke." Highly recommended. WILLIAM FLANIGAN, PhD.