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Japanese Divas

Thursday, August 11, 2011
7:00 p.m. A Wife Confesses
Yasuzo Masumura (Japan, 1961)

The dark side of cult director Yasuzo Masumura, A Wife Confesses combines the pessimistic observations of film noir with the sensuality that Masumura would pursue further in later films. A Wife Confesses is an early film to deal openly with a woman's feelings about sex. It is credited with launching Ayako Wakao's career; seen today, her performance still amazes with its extraordinary focus and intensity. She portrays a young widow standing trial for the murder of her husband in a mountaineering accident. Flashbacks within flashbacks recreate her bitterly unhappy marriage to a brutish older man and her love for his young colleague, Koda (Hiroshi Kawaguchi). Thus is her emotional life rawly exposed to judge, jury, and curious public. Masumura's unflattering portrait of this invasive society is captured from behind posts, in looming angles and with hidden cameras. Within an unusually complex narrative structure, Wakao beautifully develops contradictory desires in her heroine—her lust to live and her wish to die—and somehow makes them one.

• Written by Masato Ide, based on a novel by Masaya Maruyama. Photographed by Setsuo Kobayashi. With Ayako Wakao, Hiroshi Kawaguchi, Jun Negami, Eitaro Ozawa. (91 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 'Scope, 35mm, PFA Collection, permission Kadokawa Pictures)