When a mountain man (Lone Wolf and Cub’s Tomisaburo Wakayama) kills a man and steals his wife (Shima Iwashita), he bites off more than he can chew. Rather than being a submissive victim, the beautiful woman soon browbeats her murderous husband into total compliance, convincing him to murder all but one member of his harem of dirty mountain women. She soon becomes his wife, and convinces him to take her (and the one girl she spared, now a maid) to the capital, where the mountain man begins his new vocation: collecting heads for his wife, who uses them as props in her own personal melodramas. Soon, Wakayama (his character has no name) becomes a feared figure in the city, and his wife’s collection of heads grows and grows. But how long can it last? —Movie Feast
Masahiro Shinoda is one of the most prominent filmmakers of the Japanese New Wave, along with Nagisa Oshima and Shohei Imamura. While Oshima’s films were often a venue for political provocation and Imamura’s work seemed to be a bawdy refutation of Yasujiro Ozu’s refined passivity, Shinoda’s movies detail the spiritual emptiness of post-war Japanese life and search for some essence of the Japanese character.
Shinoda was born into one of the most illustrious families in central Gifu Prefecture in 1931. His ancestors were large landowners and village leaders of a small town that is now part of Gifu City. They also had a long literary and cultural heritage. His great uncle was the model for the main character in one of Toson Shimazaki’s novels, and Shinoda’s cousin is one of Japan’s leading abstract calligraphers. As a child, Shinoda was studious, applying himself to mathematics and physics; but by the end of World War II, he experienced the same sort of bitter disillusionment as… read more
This beautifully shot, fascinating Shinoda movie is bizarre in the extreme and in my eyes contains elements of Rashomon, Ugetsu and Kwaidan. A great evil performance from Shima Iwashita in a role that compares favourably with Isuzu Yamada's in Kurosawa's Throne of Blood and Ayako Wakao's in Masumura's Irezumi. It's hard to believe that the same actress played the sweet bride in Ozu's last film An Autumn Afternoon....
As a sidebar to the New York Film Festival, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is currently running a retrospective of the great and underappreciated