Warm Water Under A Red Bridge

2001, Movie, NR, 119 mins

Review

WARM WATER UNDER A RED BRIDGE
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After nearly 50 years behind the camera, Shoei Imamura continues to make the kind of film that once made him a key figure in the Japanese New Wave. His 19th feature is eccentric, playful and boldly erotic. Laid off after years spent working for the same Tokyo architectural firm, Yosuke (Koji Yakusho) now spends his afternoons bouncing from one dead-end job interview to another, and hanging out at the river's edge with indigent philosopher Taro (Kazuo Kitamura), who tells Yosuke a strange story. Shortly after WWII ended, Taro claims to have stolen a golden Buddha from a temple in Kyoto and hidden it away in a house on the tip of the Noto Peninsula. Taro describes the house — it's covered with trumpet flowers and sits at the end of a red bridge — and, shortly before his death, urges Yosuke to go and retrieve the treasure in his place. Doubting the truth of the tale, Yosuke nevertheless makes the trip and, sure enough, finds the house. Once a thriving sweet shop, it's now home to the late confectioner's daughter, Saeko (Misa Shimizu), and her senile, fortune-telling grandmother (Mitsuko Baisho). Yosuke is surprised when Saeko not only welcomes but seduces him; he's in for an even bigger surprise when Saeko climaxes and starts spraying water like a fire hose. It's a physiological abnormality, she explains: Water just wells up inside her and drives her to do wicked things, like shoplift. Yosuke is as aroused as he is amazed, and since he has no job or family to return to (his wife left when he lost his job), he decides to stick around, even if there isn't any golden Buddha at the end of this particular rainbow. Shimizu and Yakusho, who starred together in both Imamura's DR. AKAGI (1998) and his Palm d'Or winner THE EEL (1997), are an ideal onscreen couple; however bizarre the premise, they're never less than romantic. The film may be lighter in tone than Imamura's more recent work, but it still has a number of serious things to say about life in contemporary Japan. Saeko explains how the waters that course through her small town have been poisoned by industrial waste, while Yosuke wanders about like a man whose life has been pulled out from under him. Japan's economic bubble having finally burst, he's just waking up to the fact he can no longer count on the ordinary life he once took for granted. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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