Warm Water Under A Red Bridge

Imamura's final film takes the fable-like quality of his late masterpiece The Eel and pushes it further – it's soppy and silly and a bit of a disappointment. We have another exile from the city – a laid-off salaryman trying and failing to find another job in Tokyo, whose wife and son have moved out to live with his parents-in-law. He has befriended a hobo philosopher who dies at the beginning of the film, but leaves behind a tale of treasure he's hidden in a village townhouse next to a river with a red bridge. Our hero goes after it, and finds renewal (and new love) in rural Japan.

Imamura's camera retains a documentary quality – with very long takes capturing the action at a distance. Conversations are held with a two-shot, and rarely cut to close-up. The naturalism is broken up by intrusive sound cues, and occasional really garish effects, making the film quite ugly to look at. Although there isn't a voiceover, the tone of the story resembles something like Amélie or The Royal Tenembaums – highly-stylised films that emphasise the make-believe world they are portraying (the immigrant student marathon runner and his demented trainer really do look like they've stumbled out of a Wes Anderson film). Imamura's film was released a year after those two, and it looks far worse.

There's no golden bhudda to be found, of course. The treasure is the women who live in the house, who gush unreal amounts of water when they orgasm. The film is refreshingly sex-positive – the philosopher keeps popping up in flashback to insist that debauchery is a fine goal to have in life, and that throughout history the wealthy have squeezed the lower classes so they have time to indulge in it. Saeko is unfortunate that her body betrays her strong sexual appetites so obviously – and the film hints at her sense of shame, although that's quickly overcome through the intervention of our good-natured hero. Ultimately the waterworks are a symbol of natural replenishment and health, and something to be celebrated. It's unfortunate that the film does so in such a crass and silly way – ending on a shot of the fountain made by the main characters copulating creating a awful-looking CGI rainbow.

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