A Taxing Woman’s Return (1988)

JUZO ITAMI

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5

Original Title: Marusa no onna 2

, 1988. . Screenplay by Jûzô Itami. Cinematography by . Produced by , . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

The success of 1987’s A Taxing Woman inspired director Juzo Itami to head straight into a sequel, releasing this second part a year later and returning to her celebrated lead role as Ryôko Itakura, the intrepid tax auditor who always gets her corporate man. She is once again investigating financial corruption, this time looking into the business practices of a religious organization whose followers give large donations to secure their success in the afterlife, while spending most of this life in physically pulsating spiritual euphoria.

Itakura believes that the head of the church is using the organization as a front for laundering gangland money and sets about to prove it, this time given an uptight university graduate assistant who disagrees with her ways but admires her all the same. Miyamoto actually takes a back seat here, she’s on screen at the beginning and the end but the middle is spent on an overly complicated plot detailing the cruel business practices of her target, who intimidates common folk in brutal ways in order to pull off a real estate scam that he is expecting will make him billions of yen. It’s as if Itami was worried that his criticism of Japan’s financial and political systems went down a bit too easily in the original film, choosing to go darker the second time around, but what he leaves behind is the first part’s offbeat humour, warm characterizations and the complicated and nuanced relationship between the main character and her nemesis.

Just as long but not as juicy as its predecessor, this one does still maintain the director’s astute skill for aesthetics, the cinematography, editing and sound design are top notch, but it could easily be said that well enough should have been left alone.

Toronto International Film Festival: 1988

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