WOMAN (1948)

A review of an obscure indie film (courtesy of HuluPlus’ choice selection of films from the Criterion Collection), some film history & Eric Michael Kochmer. Read on to find out why indie filmmakers should care. Every #TBT.

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Woman (1948) directed by Keisuke Kinoshita (67 minutes)

“Woman” is a striking Japanese drama set in the post war countryside. The story revolves around a beautiful young woman’s dilemma on whether to keep her job and her stable life or run away with her gangster boyfriend who she loves. The story follows the couple as they hitchhike on foot getting rides on the back of farming trucks. They eat noodles in open markets. The man talks and talks, stating that he wants to change. That he wants a better life. He sings with local children and does everything he possibly can to express to the woman he will change. Through all of this talking, painted on the woman’s face are seeds of doubt and distrust conflicted with immense young naive love.womanEMKThe performances, direction, location/production design and musical score are all at high levels here. Actress, Mitsuko Mito (who went on to have a great career) starts as a young dancer who is in love with a corrupt man and evolves into a woman who has the courage to stand up for herself and choose right over wrong. It’s a little simple but that’s basically the message here. Actor, Eitaro Ozawa, plays the gangster, who up to this point in the girls life has done a successful job of manipulating her into doing what he wants. As she slowly rebels against him his true colors begin slipping out until he can’t help but stand fully exposed as a pathetic “robber and a thief” as she calls him.

Director, Keisuke Kinoshita, illustrates the tale in shabby theater (likely his only real set), the sprawling country-side, a train station and a small village where the story culminates. Chuji Kinoshita’s (not sure if any relation to the director) score is haunting and mesmerizing.Kinoshita had a prolific and prestigious career, directing over fifty films and winning two Golden Globes, so it’s puzzling that there isn’t more about this picture.

While the content pre-dates the road movies of the New American Cinema, The New German Cinema, the French New Wave, the Czech New Wave, and the Japanese New Wave by 15-20 years, it stands apart from those works. The camera work is in static or panning shots, almost hypnotic in the choices of low angles and sudden close ups which parallel the mood of the story, while those later works often use handheld or even a large amount of dolly shots. The action of the end and the way the camera work builds and explodes is worthy of repeat viewing immediately.Cinematographer (Hiroyuki Kusuda) shots add a fast paced tension to the non-plot driven nature of the narrative, which though the content is more art house than genre it moves along like a thriller. And at 67 minutes it moves pretty fast!