Woman In Witness Protection (1997)

JUZO ITAMI

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

Original Title: Marutai no onna

, 1997. . Screenplay by Jûzô Itami. Cinematography by . Music by . Film Editing by .

The last film by the great Juzo Itami before his mysterious suicide (or murder, depending on who you ask) is this terrific comedy that takes one more aim at an institution that the filmmaker believes isn’t pulling its weight, the justice system. contributes yet another unforgettable characterization to Itami’s canon as a spoiled, self-centred actress who is doing her warm-up exercises in the moonlight when she happens to witness a double homicide, getting up close to the killer and almost getting dispatched to her own reward in the process. She tells the police what she witnessed and is given two officers to guard her day and night, one a starstruck fan and the other a disinterested and sober fellow who hasn’t watched a movie since college.

The killer belongs to a bizarre death cult that is determined to make sure that he doesn’t go down for his crime, so while Miyamoto declares quite openly to the press that she is prepared to testify in court, her resolve weakens as the relentless threats come her way and don’t stop, some violent and some persuasively offering her money to keep her trap shut. Her protectors beg her to consider the importance of her position as the only witness to a crime that took two innocent lives, and to consider that she has a civic duty to speak up for what is right.

As with his previous film Supermarket Woman, Itami has softened on his desire to lecture his audience and sublimates the message into an entertaining caper whose possibilities he has no end of fun playing with, and like the previous film he also gives us an exciting car chase with which to end this diverting adventure.

Miyamoto’s character being an actress means the opportunity to explore plenty of performances within the world of the film, she seems to have a different gig in every scene and each one is more delicious than the last, from experimental theatre to filming a horror movie to performing a prestige theatrical production as Cleopatra on stage. Miyamoto doesn’t miss a beat keeping up with the pace of everything required of her, it’s almost a culmination of all the many unforgettable characters she enacted in Itami’s oeuvre and is a testament to her remarkable talent.

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