September 28, 2005
Woman of the Mist, 1936
In the essay Woman of the Mist and Gosho and the 1930s from the book Reframing Japanese Cinema: Authorship, Genre, History, Arthur Nolletti examines the complex narrative and visual strategies employed by Gosho that culminate in what would become one of his most accomplished works. Perhaps the most indicative of this style is his use of irony and subverted expectation. As the film begins, Bunkichi (Takeshi Sakamoto), an affable ne'er-do-well who married late (after sowing quite a few wild oats in his own youth) is approached by members of the community to head a collection drive for a commemorative lantern, a level of responsibility for which his wife Okiyo teasingly calls into question his suitability. Bunkichi further proves his irresponsibility when his widowed sister Otoku asks him to speak her son Seiichi in order to advise him to concentrate on his studies (instead of frittering his time reading novels) and instead, takes the young man out for a night of drinking. However, when Seiichi becomes involved in an even more serious - and potentially life-altering - predicament, Bunkichi takes him under his wing and assumes responsibility to mitigate the consequences of the young man's indiscretion. Gosho's richly textured home drama is a refined and seemingly effortless examination of duty, sacrifice, and maturity. The film's curious title, a reference to the out-of-favor geisha turned Ginza bar hostess Terue, provides an evocative and haunting metaphor for human transience.