Born in a rural farming village in 1918, Tome grows up to survive decades of Japanese social upheaval, as well as abuse and servitude at the hands of various men. Yet Shohei Imamura, with his trademark “entomological” approach, refuses to make a victim of Tome (played by the extraordinary Sachiko Hidari), instead observing her as a fascinating, pragmatic creature of twentieth-century Japan. A portrait of opportunism and resilience in three generations of women, The Insect Woman is Imamura’s most expansive film, and Tome his ultimate heroine. —The Criterion Collection
Shohei Imamura’s ribald, darkly comic films about messy human relationships and coarse, indomitable women repelled early European critics who had grown to cherish the graceful, exotic image of Japan typified by Kenji Mizoguchi films. Yet Imamura remains a critically important director, both as one of the seminal Japanese New Wave directors (along with Nagisa Oshima and Masahiro Shinoda) and as a chronicler of a side of Japan rarely seen in Mizoguchi movies or tourist brochures.
Born in 1926, in Tokyo, Imamura attended the elite elementary and middle schools that normally would have aimed him toward a prestigious university degree and a comfortable career in business or government. His love of theater and loathing of bourgeois presumptions, however, steered him away from a conventional lifestyle. When he failed the entrance exam for the agriculture program at the national university in Hokkaido, he enrolled in a technical school to evade the draft. The day the Pacific War ended… read more
Compared to Pigs and Battleships, The Insect Woman is a much more mature film. The narrative is tighter and less confusing, and Imamura's compositional sense is out of this world. However, it lacked the punch the former film had for me. I was interested, but Imamura keeps us too much at a distance here and it doesn't quite work. More mature doesn't mean better, but it's still a good film.