22 September 2010 | DICK STEEL
A Nutshell Review: Villon's Wife
Feminists will find this film being quite exasperating to watch, since the female lead character is a long suffering wife of a self-destructive writer husband, who is left to her own devices to fend for herself, keep her family together, look after their young kid, and to constantly bail her husband out of trouble. Perhaps it's because of the time, set during post WWII Japan, that there's so much uncertainty in life that nobody in the right mind will want to rock the boat on their own family nucleus, where survival is of the utmost importance.
The film opens with Otani (Tadanobu Asano) being accused of stealing from the bar of an elderly couple, who had chased him all the way home. His wife Sachi (Takako Matsu) in an effort to provide compensation, offers herself and her time to work at the couple's bar to serve drinks to customers, with the guarantee that she'll work until either her husband returns to pay the couple back, or work until the debt is repaid, which took into account the amount of freeloading that Otani had exploited the couple over the years.
And that's not all the negative issues that Sachi has to come face to face with, as Otani seemed to be the husband from hell, making us see absolutely no brilliance of the author he was touted to be, and wonder how long more does Sachi has to put up with her husband's nonsense, which included seeing him with another woman, his attempted suicide with his lover (played by Ryoko Hirosue), his accusation of her betraying him and being disloyal that makes him a cuckolded husband, followed by a stint in jail which Sachi has to bail him out of.
It is this last episode that hinted at Sachi's new found independence and discovery of the power she wields over men, as we see that she's attractive enough for a young boy to proclaim his infatuation for her, and a rich lad at that too, providing that level of financial security I guess most would jump at during the time, and leaving the audience guessing whether she did or did not do the deed with an ex who's now a lawyer in her quest to get her husband out of jail.
Based upon the short story of Osamu Dazai's, Villon's Wife is as the title stated, an examination of that feminine character and her trials and tribulations during a period of grave uncertainty, brought to life by the excellent art direction and production sets that transported us back when American GIs first set foot on Japan. Credit goes to the two leads Asano and Matsu as the husband and wife in the film, as both bring out excellent performances and made the plot rather engaging to sit through, nevermind that most times you'd wonder if this was in the modern context, the wife would have walked out already. Takako Matsu especially impressed in her role as Sachi, showcasing her character's mettle and steely determination to get through her ordeals unscathed and with dignity, celebrating self-reliance and survival instincts during times of hardship.