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Tsuma wa kokuhaku suru (A Wife Confesses)

Posted by martinteller on July 3, 2014

Ayako Takigawa (Ayako Wakao) is on trial for murder.  Her husband Ryôkichi (Eitarô Ozawa) has taken her and his assistant Kouda (Hiroshi Kawaguchi) on a dangerous mountain climb, and the rope came loose.  With Ryôkichi dangling at the end of the rope and Ayako caught in the middle, she cut the cord and sent him plummeting to his death.  Of this there is no doubt… the question is did she do it to save her own life, or out of a cold-hearted desire to kill her husband?  Is a woman obligated to die with her husband?  Did she harbor secret feelings for Kouda, despite his engagement to another woman (Haruko Mabuchi)?  As the trial reveals a loveless marriage that Ryôkichi refused to let go of, Ayako’s intentions are called into question.

This is the fifth picture I’ve seen by Yasuzo Musamura, and probably the blandest.  Which isn’t to say it’s the worst — both Red Angel and Afraid to Die underwhelmed me more — but it doesn’t have the energy and style of either of those.  While I didn’t enjoy it as much as Giants and Toys or the bizarro Blind Beast, it’s still a perfectly fine film.  It has a compelling flashback structure that investigates not the facts of the incident as much as the emotions leading up to it.  It is an intriguing legal situation, and not one you often see in courtroom dramas… it’s not a whodunit or a howdunit but a whydunit.  How do you prove motivation for an action, and what is it like to have other people speculate on it?  Emotions run high, with a particularly intense performance from Wakao.  She’s a compelling actress (Street of Shame, A Geisha, Floating Weeds, Revenge of a Kabuki Actor) and she burns with inner turmoil here.

The cinematography by Setsuo Kobayashi (notable for his work with Kon Ichikawa as well as other Masumura films) is also quite strong.  The angles highlight the sense of drama, and the camera is often placed behind objects in a way that suggests spying on the characters.  One of the film’s themes is the intrusion of the media into private matters, shaping how the public perceives events that they cannot possibly have a full understanding of.  The voyeuristic photography contributes to this commentary.  The mountain sequences are masterfully done, too.

I wish the film had more oomph to it, or a more well-defined point of view.  It makes for somewhat intriguing relationship drama but I didn’t feel like it had a whole lot to say.  It’s hard to draw any conclusions from it beyond “Well, she’s messed up but she has good reason to be.”  However, it’s well done and holds your interest.  A solid though not spectacular work by Masumura.  Rating: Good (75)


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