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A Woman’s Saga for the Truth & Existentialism for Beginners

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By Roger Costa

WIFE OF A SPY

An adventurer filmmaker who brilliantly shifts tones and genres with the same competence and depth, the great Japanese auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa returns with a sumptuous anti-war melodrama set amidst the outbreak of WWII. Winner of the Silver Lion Award for Best Director at last year’s Venice Film Festival, the drama centers on the life changing experiences of a woman facing the risky realities of her husband’s secret revolutionary ideals. After returning from a travel to Busan, where he witnessed extreme acts of barbarity, local business and amateur filmmaker Yusaku becomes engaged in the fight against the Army authoritarianism and violence, serving as an informant for the enemy. His devoted and naïve wife, Satoko, becomes fully involved and a main key to the plot, a sort of bridge between her husband’s anti-nationalist activities and a determined young officer (her childhood friend and crush) who is assigned to capture individuals suspected of leaking information. The ambiguous trio will face obstacles and traps in order to accomplish their tasks, while examining their real feelings for each other. The director explores their interactions with precise naturalism and serenity, as both highly charismatic actors deliver ravishing performances.

Gorgeously shot with luminously abstract views on buildings’ architecture and landscapes, enriched by lush colors, impeccably recreated with fabulous costumes and involving soundtrack, the film makes a subtle political statement about censorship and human rights, reflecting on an era where the leaders of the world became villains. There is also a timely coincidence in the narrative, as the murderous scheme of the Army in spreading a lethal bacteria thru tests in humans, shows up as a horrifying twist.

Centered on the passionate relationship confronted by suspicion, principles and lies, the film is an elegant romance and a gripping suspense, a deeply engaging look at a marriage in conflict with the truth in times of oppression and war. Kurosawa scores his most delicate and intimate film since “Tokyo Sonata”, with this sensational, thought-provoking and absorbing romantic saga.

(Kino Lorber. 9/17. IFC Center.)

SHORT VACATION

Four teenage students set foot on a road adventure through the outskirts of Seoul in this lovable, fabulously delicate coming of age tale about friendship, loyalty and the living exploration. As they discover the world around them, using their disposable cameras to capture light, enchantment, inspiration and imagination, Korean director Kwon Min-pyo’s crafts an unusually lyrical and meditative look at a young’s feminine universe and the gentle manners of innocence.

(Screening thru 9/15 at MoMA.)


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