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Double Suicide

1969 1h 45m Drama List
100% Tomatometer 5 Reviews 86% Audience Score 1,000+ Ratings
Successful and married with children, paper-mill owner Jihei (Kirchiemon Nakamura) knows better than to contradict the strict social and moral codes of 18th-century Japan. But when he meets the lovely courtesan Koharu (Shima Iwashita), he becomes a man obsessed. Koharu returns his love, even foregoing other customers while Jihei schemes to somehow buy her freedom. His efforts yield ruinous consequences for his business and his family life, and Koharu is meanwhile purchased by another client. Read More Read Less

Critics Reviews

View All (5) Critics Reviews
Richard Whitehall Los Angeles Free Press Masterly. Jan 15, 2020 Full Review Jeffrey M. Anderson Combustible Celluloid A film unlike any I've ever seen. Apr 17, 2009 Full Review Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com Rated: 3/5 Oct 8, 2005 Full Review Michael Dequina TheMovieReport.com The amped-up line readings and actions initially feel a bit much, but they are crucial in creating the story's operatic sweep. Rated: 3.5/4 Jan 3, 2005 Full Review James Kendrick Q Network Film Desk Rated: 3/4 Feb 27, 2001 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (53) audience reviews
Dave S In 18th century Japan, a happily married business owner finds himself mutually and deeply in love with a prostitute. Eschewing all social conventions, he finds himself struggling to raise money to free her from the confines of the brothel. Director Masahiro Shinoda's Double Suicide, a title that is also a bit of a spoiler, uses kuroko theatrical techniques throughout the film as stagehands cloaked in black lurk in the shadows throughout, effective in some respects but wildly distracting at other times. As with so many Japanese films of the era, the acting is wildly overwrought, but Shinoda is ultimately successful in presenting his story thanks to the fascinating characters, effective lighting, interesting camera angles, and compelling story. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 05/09/23 Full Review Audience Member Puppets pulling the strings of passion. A great film. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/13/23 Full Review Audience Member This is Masahiro Shinoda's high concept staging of a bunraku puppet show with actors instead of dolls (but retaining the figures in black who control everything). The result is as highly stylized as you would imagine and starkly shot in high contrast black and white with Toru Takemitsu's minimalist score aiding in the effect. Based on a tale of doomed lovers by Chikamatsu (also a favourite of Mizoguchi's), the plot sees Jihei the paper merchant and Koharu the courtesan drawn inexorably to the fate announced in the title of the film. Even knowing what will happen, it is impossible to look away. Jihei's wife and two children are also dragged into the drama (as are his brother and her father). Everybody is so wrong-headed but erotic compulsion cannot be denied. The poor puppeteers in black can only look on in sympathy and horror (even as they occasionally assist the players); this adds another odd layer to the proceedings. The only other Shinoda film I've seen is Pale Flower (1964), a striking yakuza drama that is well worth your time. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/04/23 Full Review Audience Member Double Suicide is a film which I do not completely understand but nonetheless rate up. I rate flat or down many other films I do not understand because they feel hollow or pretentious or have no positive qualities I can appreciate. With Double Suicide, I cannot rate it as average given the very interesting filmmaking and choreography. I expect that with better understanding of Japanese theater and with repeated viewings I would come to better appreciate the film. That said, I find the (intentional) overwrought acting with overdub sound to be grating and give Double Suicide a low four stars. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/15/23 Full Review Audience Member Ingeniously directed and performed. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/27/23 Full Review Audience Member Winner of the three prestigious Kinema Junpo Awards including Best Film, Best Actress (Shima Iwashita) and Best Director (Masahiro Shinoda), <i>Double Suicide</i> is a masterful cinematic retelling of a famous <i>bunraku</i> (puppet theater) Japanese play of 1720 set in Osaka and written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon. Potentially Shinoda's highest peak of cinematic artistry and theatrical melodrama, this psychological spectacle is a Shakesperian tragedy of striking visuals, overwhelming performances and strokes of surrealism that simultaneously invade a tragic story about loyalty, love affairs and societal obligations that range from the marital to the family-related. Surprisingly, the film opens with present-day (1969) documentary(?) segments, featuring the cast, the crew and the organization of the attrezzo, where we see them organizing the scenography, but seemingly preparing everything necessary for a puppet play. The puppets are clearly displayed. While the initial credits are displayed, we hear a conversation between Shinoda and one of the writers, Taeko Tomioka, discussing the difficulties involved in finding a proper shooting location for filming the "final suicide sequence in the graveyard", and considering what parts of the script should not be followed closely. As we advance through the credits, the puppets fade out and are transformed in the main actors, whereas the crew assume supernatural, ghastly forms of dark ghosts supposedly representing the puppeteers. Let's just omit saying that this is one of the most ingenious opening scenes ever, and focus on Shinoda's honorable homage to the theatricality of the time. There are very rare cases in which the performances, the cinematography, the script, the music and the artistry involved in the set designs and art decorations correlate perfectly and harmoniously to create a complete, melodramatic masterpiece from every possible angle. Notorious is the work of actress Shima Iwashita, who portrays BOTH roles of Osan, Jihei's wife, and Koharu, the deplored courtesan. Stunning is the usage of the color WHITE to make the film seem like it is taking place in an otherwordly realm surrounded by light, but not necessarily heavenly. Interesting is the decision by Shinoda of keeping the concept of the "puppeteers" from the tradition of <i>bunraku</i> and apply it to film, where they do not intervene in the decisions and tragic outcomes of the characters, but rather facilitate the <b>physical</b> circumstances forming part of the contexts of the characters' decisions. It is like an alternative take on the role that the Chorus had in the ancient works of Sophocles, such as "Oedipus Rex" and "Antigone", where they would chant between one act and the next, highlighting unspoken emotions, unclarified actions, or explaining the tragic circumstances that were surrounding the characters. They were a complement to the story. In this case they are too, but rather working mysteriously like shadows lurking in the dark, awaiting for the execution of their tasks, like symbols of fate. 99/100 Rated 5 out of 5 stars 01/22/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Double Suicide

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Movie Info

Synopsis Successful and married with children, paper-mill owner Jihei (Kirchiemon Nakamura) knows better than to contradict the strict social and moral codes of 18th-century Japan. But when he meets the lovely courtesan Koharu (Shima Iwashita), he becomes a man obsessed. Koharu returns his love, even foregoing other customers while Jihei schemes to somehow buy her freedom. His efforts yield ruinous consequences for his business and his family life, and Koharu is meanwhile purchased by another client.
Director
Masahiro Shinoda
Production Co
Art Theatre Guild
Genre
Drama
Original Language
Japanese
Release Date (DVD)
Jan 30, 2001
Runtime
1h 45m