SHINJU TEN NO AMIJIMA (DOUBLE SUICIDE) (Masahiro Shinoda, 1969)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Saturday, January 5, 4:30, and Saturday, January 19, 6:45
Series runs through February 10
Tickets: $12, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk beginning at 9:30 am
Based on a 1720 Bunraku puppet play by Monzaemon Chikamatsu, Masahiro Shinoda’s Double Suicide is a stagy style-over-substance adaptation that features some beautiful sets, a compelling score by Toru Takemitsu, but an overly dramatized, talky production in which the characters’ devotion to duty and honor ultimately grows weary and frustrating, even if that’s part of the point. Kichiemon Nakamura stars as Jihei, a paper merchant who is in love with a courtesan, Koharu (Shima Iwashita, Shinoda’s real-life wife). Jihei is willing to risk everything — his business, his reputation, and his family, including his wife, Osan (Iwashita in a dual role), and their two children — in order to redeem Koharu and take her away from the red-light district. But wealthy entrepreneur and crude loudmouth Tahei (Hosei Komatsu) threatens to redeem Koharu first, forcing Jihei to decide between his family and Koharu — knowing that either decision could lead to tragedy. Much of what little action there is takes place on claustrophobic sets that evoke the theater, with men dressed in dark clothing, their faces covered, serving as Koroku, or puppeteers, helping things along without directly influencing what comes next. Considered a classic of the Japanese Nouvelle Vague, Double Suicide was named Best Picture at both the Kinema Junpo and Mainichi Film Concours awards. Double Suicide is screening January 5 & 19 as part of MoMA’s “Art Theater Guild and Japanese Underground Cinema, 1960–1986” series, held in conjunction with the excellent exhibition “Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant Garde,” continuing with such other films as Nagisa Oshima’s Shinjuku Dorobo Nikki (Diary of a Shinjuku Thief), Yukio Mishima’s Yukoku (Patriotism/The Rites of Love and Death), Shohei Imamura’s Ningen Johatsu (A Man Vanishes), and a program of short works by Donald Richie and Shuji Terayama.