Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Eiji Funakoshi, Yasuke Kawazu, Kyoko Kishida, Ayako Wakao
Director: Yasuzo Masumura
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
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Worshiping the Godess with everything you have
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 06/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Manji" is pure Junichiro Tanizaki. All of his favorite themes are on display: the modern, Westernized Japanese girl representing a moral void intent on servicing only her own interests to the destruction of others, the obsession with such a figure, going beyond sexuality to absolute slavish devotion, even the spanking. Tanizaki was an author with a definite viewpoint, and director Yasuzo Masumura has captured this viewpoint perfectly.
The fulcrum in "Manji" is Mitsuko Tokumitsu, a woman of profound beauty and charisma who invites comparisons to Kanon, the Japanese Goddess of Compassion. She is every inch the modern girl, in Western suits and fashionable haircuts. Her lover, Sonoko Kakiuchi, is a traditional Japanese beauty, never seen out of a kimono and happily shunning her husband in favor of her Goddess. Sonoko's long suffering husband Kotaro senses something unusual about the friendship, but is so distanced from his wife he is unable to penetrate the mystery. As a blind to their lesbian trysts, Sonoko and Mitsuko create a wedding and a pregnancy for Mitsuko, to the unbalanced Eijiro Watanuki. But Eijiro is every bit as obsessed with Mitsuko as Sonoko, and is unwilling to be the side player, scheming to remove the obstacles to his desire. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that while Mitsuko may be a goddess, there is nothing about her resembling compassion, and that she is playing everyone against each other. And then it gets complicated.
Tanizaki's stories always show a spiraling descent into the madness of obsession. The more powerful Mitsuko becomes, the more she manipulates and destroys the psyche and willpower of those who love her. All of them, Sonoko, Eijiro and even Kotaro become her toys, and she is a skilled puppeteer. There is only one possible conclusion to these events, and it is only a question of who will arrive there with whom.
While Masumura has captured Tanizaki's themes perfectly, the acting in "Manji" borders on melodrama, and occasionally leaps off the deep end. This style of acting is typical of older Japanese films, but in "Manji" it can be difficult to decide if the actors are playing it for comedy or despair. Also, while the film deals with sexuality, it is by no means a skinflick, and there is no actual nudity. This tends to hamper the rawness of the conflicts, as seen in later Masumura films like "Blind Beast" where powerful sexual obsession is tackled head on.
The Fantoma DVD for "Manji" is well put together, as are most Masumura Fantoma releases. There is a theatrical trailer, as well as cast and director notes."
Steven Carroll | Sammamish, WA USA | 05/21/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film was the second Masumura film that I saw. Like "Giants and Toys", the film feels broad for its first half. The acting feels a little bit overwrought, but by the end of the film, the character's plight actually resonates. The film is based on a Tanizaki novel, so while there is a bit of "erotic" content, it's not cheap or exploitative. The booklet contains an excellent essay with cultural background for the film and analysis by a film scholar that I found useful.For the record, Manji is the name of that swastika looking symbol on the front cover. (It has nothing to do with Nazism. It's a Buddhist symbol.) Recommended for fans of Japanese Cinema."
Masumura is an original
R. Benardes | Bahia - Brazil | 10/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Masumura's work is the cinematic equivalent of Edgar Allan Poe's short stories.His universe is populated with characters who live on the brink of despair and psychological breakdown.The dramatic intensity and visual panache of his movies makes him an undervaluated master of the new wave movement.
MANJI and THE BLIND BEAST are masterpieces of underground cinema whose surreal intensity reminds me such masters as Ken Russel and David Lynch and should not be missed.
That Tanizaki Touch
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 08/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Within his large body of work, the noted Japanese novelist Tanizaki Junichirou became renowned for the pure sensuality and eroticism. In "A Portrait of Shunkin the servant of a blind samisen player blinds himself when his mistress's face is marred. In "The Bridge of Dreams" a young man is told by his father to accept his new stepmother as his own and he goes as far as to nurse at her breasts and in "Mr. Bluemound a man goes as far as to create perfect reproductions of a man's wife, including such bodily excretions as mucus and feces. However, one of Tanizaki's most famous, or infamous, creations is that of Naomi, a novel about a modern girl with Eurasian features who wields control over the men in her life with her beauty. The story this film is based on is similar to Naomi, however, instead of seducing only the husband, the wife is seduced as well. Actually this is incorrect, because the wife is actually seduced before the husband.
The film opens with Kakiuchi Sonoko, Kishida Kyoko, visiting the home of a writer stating that she wishes that she was a better writer so she could write out her experiences for him in novel form. She then begins to tell him of her stormy affair with the statuesque Tokumitsu Mitsuko. Already infatuated with Mitsuko, rumors begin to spread around the Woman's school Sonoko attends that she is having an affair with Mitsuko. Finally getting a chance to talk to Mitsuko, the two women decide to become the best of friends instead of keeping their distance from each other. After Sonoko shows her a portrait she drew of her as the Goddess of Mercy, Mitsuko states that it does not look exactly like her. Sonoko then asks the beautiful woman if it would be okay for her to paint her in the nude. Mitsuko agrees and sometime later goes to Sonoko's home and disrobes herself and covers herself with a sheet. Infatuated with the idea of seeing Mitsuko's completely nude body, Sonoko rips off the sheet revealing Mitsuko's flesh and so begins there affair.
Things seem to be going well at first, despite Sonoko's husband becoming more and more suspicious of Sonoko's relationship with Mitsuko, but one night Mitsuko calls Sonoko and asks her to bring her some clothes. Not only clothes for herself, but some clothes for a man as well. It is that night that Sonoko learns that Mitsuko has a fiancé named Watanuki. Wanting to break off the relationship, Sonoko promises her husband that she will be completely true to him, but soon Mitsuko comes back into her life and the life of her husband as well.
The first of three filmic versions of Tanizaki's story, the second came out in 1983 and a latest having been released this year, the 1964 version of Manji succeeds on a few levels despite a rather shaky plot. The love making scenes are handled very well by showing plenty of flesh without showing the naughty bits and the bare skin his highlighted by juxtapositions of light and shadow. Also, Kishida Kyoko, who played the woman in Woman of the Dunes, does a truly astounding job of acting. While some of his other films might be better known, Masumura's Manji shows the work of a truly original filmmaker."