By the time Tomé is draining a cat's blood to use to fake her virginity for a paying client, Japan is well into its postwar process. With the war skipped over, we only see how the U.S. occupation has infected traditional Japanese culture -- new land ownership regulations and the influence of new religions, to name a few. In a time when Japan was struggling with its own identity, so is Tomé. Though enamored with religion, she finds strength in prostitution -- in being able to manipulate the men who treat her as a simple object. As empowering as it is destructive, Tomé's resolve is no more poignant than when it's contrasted to her daughter Nobuko's seemingly content farm life in the final scenes. Imamura pits the melodramatic scene between Nobuko and her husband resolving a conflict (sealed with a kiss no less) -- Nobuko, the modern, postwar woman in complete control of the situation -- against Tomé struggling on a mountainside, a heavy bag weighing her down, as she carries out an errand for her ex-husband.
Continue reading: The Insect Woman Review
Set "100 years ago" in a primitive and remote northern Japanese village, Narayama takes an intimate look at village life in a place where constant near-famine forces the townspeople to banish their elderly citizens to a mountaintop death at the age of 70. Next up for this passage -- which, by the way, almost no one seems to protest -- is Odin (Sumiko Sakamoto), the spry matriarch who is in such good health that she actually pulls out some of her own teeth to convince her family that yes, her time has indeed come. But before she goes, she has business to attend to.
Continue reading: The Ballad of Narayama Review
Subu Ogata (Shoichi Ozawa) is an unscrupulous man who lives with a woman (Sumiko Sakamoto) named Haru and her two children. He earns money and provides for them in the most seemly manner; mostly through making cheap 8mm pornographic films and pimping various "virginal" women to rich Japanese businessmen.
Continue reading: The Pornographers Review
Shohei (Black Rain -- not the Michael Douglas version) Imamura's new film, The Eel, documents this quiet, eccentric character during his first several months of parole. What starts out as the story of a murderer shifts gears to become a quirky character study with more than a little touch of farce as he attempts to start his life over as a village barber in a small seaside town. He doesn't seem to like people very much, spending most of his time confessing to his eel, which "listened to him" as his pet during those hard years in prison.
Continue reading: The Eel Review