Double Suicide (1969)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

Original title:  Shinju: Ten no Amijima

Japan, 1969.  Art Theatre Guild, Hyôgen-sha.  Screenplay by Masahiro Shinoda, , , based on the play by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .

A tragic love story is interpreted through puppet theatre in this visually intoxicating, sometimes lurid melodrama.  A struggling paper merchant is madly in love with a geisha and spends so much time with her that he is failing at providing for his family at home.  They genuinely love each other and plan to run away, but he does not have the money to free her from the ownership of her master, having spent most of his money in his beloved’s establishment.  His wife (both women are played by the same actress) cannot handle the misery any longer and sacrifices any possibility of future happiness by begging her husband to leave her and run away with his mistress, even trying to find a way to make it work financially.  Filmed on stylized, self-consciously theatrical sets with visible stagehands who evoke the sense of bunraku that the film is entrenched in, it’s much more an aesthetic experience than an emotional one, but it is also intelligent and very finely acted.  Masahiro Shinoda gives his protagonists just enough sympathy to bemoan their tragic fate while also allowing for the message that indulging in human desires is a carelessly foolish thing to do.

The Criterion Collection:  #104

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