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The Sea is Watching
The Sea is Watching
Actors: Misa Shimizu, Nagiko Tôno, Masatoshi Nagase, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Miho Tsumiki
Director: Kei Kumai
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
R     2003     1hr 59min

To film lovers around the world, The Sea Is Watching is a welcome parting gift from Akira Kurosawa, who wrote the screenplay based on two short stories by one of his favorite authors, Syugoro Yamamoto, but was unable to ma...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Misa Shimizu, Nagiko Tôno, Masatoshi Nagase, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Miho Tsumiki
Director: Kei Kumai
Creators: Kei Kumai, Hajime Satomi, Haruyuki Machida, Hirotake Yoda, Hisao Kurosawa, Akira Kurosawa, Shûgorô Yamamoto
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance
Studio: Sony Pictures
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 11/18/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 00/00/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 59min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Georgian, Chinese, Thai

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Movie Reviews

"Give the customer a good time.Don't get involved.Above all,
KerrLines | Baltimore,MD | 08/13/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I am by no means an expert on Japanese films or Kurosawa and Kumai.What I do enjoy, though, is a good story told ,acted and executed well; so that said,THE SEA IS WATCHING was an enjoyable experience.

What I did know,going into this film, was a good deal about the Geishas from PACIFIC OVERTURES.I was impressed with the excellent attention to detail,reverence and custom of The Geisha women.Though I enjoyed MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (the book and the movie-though not done by Japanese),THE SEA IS WATCHING was extremely faithful in detailing the Geisha life.For that alone, this film is valuable,especially to Americans who may know so little about the brothels of Japan.

The themes are universal in this film: a woman wears her heart on her sleeve, she falls in love with someone of a higher rank which makes union impossible.This story has been done many times over in other settings; but this would be the best I have seen for Japan.

Colors in this film are extremely vivid and bright.The end set with the stars behind the women on the roof looked very fake, though.
A great contrast film would be RAISE THE RED LANTERN (Chinese)."
The Harsh Life Of Prostitutes: And Even Harsher Reality Of N
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 09/23/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Beautiful cinematography highlights this Tokugawa era film. "The Sea Is Watching," was written by Akira Kurosawa, and directed by his son Kei Kumai. The setting for this film is at a brothel in 19th-century Japan. The film moves at a slow pace, but is still an interesting watch. The films main protagonist is a woman named O-Shin (Nagiko Tono) who works as a prostitute. She does not heed the warning from the other prostitutes to not fall in love with the customers. However, she is kind hearted, and sees good in everyone. Plus, she has a young brother to support. One night an event will occur which will set her life on a different path. She encounters a samurai who is on the run. This samurai has come to the brothel to seek refuge. His name is Fusanosuke (Hidetaka Yoshioka).

O-Shin does everything to help protect this man from those seeking him out, and does so convincingly. Moreover, she falls in love with him. The samurai makes a promise to her when he comes to see her again, and O-Shin believes that if she changes her life, then she will become the wife of a samurai. But events lead her on a different path. Is this the man who will become her husband? Or is there someone else in her future? The film introduces another character named Ryosuke (Masatashi Nagase) who feels he is a failure. [Masatashi Nagase has been in some interesting films, and many may recall him as the character Maiku Hama]. O-Shin falls in love again. Moreover, the character Ryosuke, also finds that maybe he has more worth than he believes, as O-Shin gives him a lecture, thereby raising his own sense of self-worth.

While this film does not have the usual samurai flair, as a period piece, it is very good. I found myself captivated by the cinematography of the film. It is very, very beautiful. The story itself, while slow moving, also revolves strictly around the brothel. This story does not move away from the life of this brothel, but rather introduces characters who come and go. Including actor Renji Ishibashi, who is a regular visitor to the brothel. The story is about the lives of these women, and O-Shin in particular. Life is hard for these prostitutes, and nature is about to give them an even harsher one. The title of this film is extremely apt for this film. As the viewer will discover towards the end. This is an interesting film, and I recommend it to everyone. It is a good drama, and once again, the cinematography is excellent."
A Very Lyrical Film About Unlikely Heroes...
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 08/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Written by Akira Kurosawa complete with production notes regarding its culture, society and detail in 1993, director Kei Kumai adapts his screenplay in 2002 for "The Sea is Watching". We all remember Kurosawa for his works in Jidai Geki films such as "Yojimbo" and "Seven Samurai", but the acclaimed filmmaker is far more than that. Unlike his previous period film, Kurosawa portrays unlikely heroes in this screenplay; it features prostitutes as the main heroines. The film chronicles the lives of two women who work and live in a brothel (different from a geisha house) in ancient Japan during a not-so prosperous period in the 19th century.

A small inn is blooming with business. Working come and goes to be in the company of beautiful women after a days work. Peasants, businessmen, criminals, samurai and common men all come to this remote area. Kikuno (played by voluptuous Misa Shimizu) is an experienced woman who supposedly grew up in a samurai household. She uses her womanly charms and wiles to juggle her customers and her two suitors--a gentle older man and a shady one who has links to the yakuza. O-Shin (beauteous Nagiko Toho) is a very compassionate young woman who has a heart of gold. She has a habit of falling for her not-so fortunate customers while supporting her family.

Japanese screenplays aren't as well-detailed or scoped out as American ones, so while the "Sea is Watching" was written by Kurosawa; the screenplay is pretty much open to interpretation. It is said that Kurosawa abandoned this expensive project before his death and there isn't much of the Kurosawa signature style to be seen in the film. While some of the set designs, location are reflective of Kurosawa, the cinematography plays more like a Kenji Mizoguchi film. Kurosawa would never use a bird's eye view in the opening act (which became a stereotypical style to period films) and Kurosawa would've fleshed out the characters of O-shin and Kikuno much more. The film while good, feels more like an everyday routine in the lives of our two protagonists.

Kurosawa originally intended the film for actress Mieko Harada in mind, and it would have been awesome to see her play Kikuno. Kind of the same way that it makes me wonder as to how "Kagemusha" and "Ran" would have played out if Toshiro Mifune didn't fall out of Kurosawa's graces and Tatsuya Nakadai took over the lead roles; Nakadai did tremendous performances in those films, but it still makes me wonder. Harada became famous for her role as Lady Kaede in "Ran" and played a prostitute in "Ame Aguru"; while Shimizu does a decent performance as Kikuno, her features reflect a fashion model and she is just too flawless to become a heartsick prostitute. Kumai's tastes are exposed in her personality. Kurosawa's own daughter, Kazuko took charge of the film's costumes.

But enough about wishful thinking as to how this film would've turned out if Kurosawa was at its helm; let's stick to the basics of the movie. Kurosawa did bring its "Red Beard"-like historical accuracy, something I doubt Kumai could've achieved himself (not putting his talents down but it does feel like Kurosawa). The first half of the film brings the hopes and humanity of our brothel women as O-Shin becomes attracted to a young samurai. The other women are very supportive to O-Shin's potential suitor but those hopes would later be dashed as the samurai was already betrothed to another. Kikuno has a relationship with an old businessman called Zenbei (Renji Ishibashi) who is more than willing to buy out her contract from the brothel's keeper (Yumiko Yagawa) but Kikuno is also attracted to a yakuza type most probably because of his skills in bed. O-shin's life becomes more complicated when a stranger named Ryosuke (Masatoshi Nagase) comes into the mix.

One may say that Kikuno is O-shin before she became more cynical. You can see the parallels to their characters, O-shin is still a bit naïve and generous while Kikuno tries to be more smart; not that Kikuno's decisions bring better luck, it's just that fate always deals them a difficult hand. Kumai does try to bring the two parallels in their characterization to bear, but it wasn't fully realized. The film more like a melodrama about the lifestyle shared by women in this type of work. Despite this misstep, the script is pretty good and the film is well-acted. Much of the film's burden falls on Nagiko Toho who played O-Shin but things begin to change when we get to the film's second half. Kikuno's character takes center stage as we learn more about her.

Shimizu and Toho do play their characters with the right tone and feel. They do act like they are `fallen women' with a very unfortunate past which ended with them working in a brothel. I was touched by Toho's performances (although some of it felt a little too melodramatic) and Shimizu had that somewhat cold feel to her character. The supporting cast isn't too bad either as Nagase (who plays Ryosuke) exhibited that edgy balance in the script. Ginji (Eiji Okuda) is Kikuno's good for nothing yakuza boyfriend who makes the `villain' in the movie and he just made me feel repulsed by his character. The movie is about a brothel, so expect some nudity and mild sex; Toho and Shimizu both did their share of the scenes, and the scenes looked somewhat erotic and enthralling.

"The Sea is Watching" is a film about fate, love and friendship. It may have some strong similarities to Mizoguchi's "Streets of Shame" in 1956 but I thought it was a very good film despite some missed opportunities in fleshing out the parallels of its main protagonists and they never reached their full potential. O-shin and Kikuno felt like they were simply "stock characters" at times that the movie isn't really about them, and felt like it is a movie about the brothel's daily life. We can't be sure as what Kurosawa's intentions were in the writing of this script, but I am still glad that this film has been made. "The Sea is Watching" has many redeeming points in its execution that I would give it a recommended rating.

Recommended! [3 ½ Stars]