Screened as part of NZIFF 2002
"For a culture in which the vision and craft of septuagenarians have never been less newsworthy, Shohei Imamura’s buoyant, embraceable new absurdism, Warm Water Under a Red Bridge, is an authoritative riposte – a young man’s walk in an old man’s shoes…. The relative nihilism of Vengeance Is Mine and The Ballad of Narayama has given way, since the eight years of silence that ended with 1997’s The Eel, to a generous ardor for the capricious potential of movie narrative. Nonchalantly freaky and uncommonly pleasurable, Warm Water may well be the year’s best and most unpredictable comedy.
With Time Out… it also contributes to the popular Family Man Jumps the Radar paradigm… with Japanese über-star Koji Yakusho as a jobless salaryman taken to loitering with Tokyo homeless as his nagging wife waits in the suburbs. When he decides to pursue a golden Buddha mythologized by a soon-to-be-dead vagrant, the movie lands in a seaside village filthy with happenstance and quirk. No sooner does Yakusho’s stranger-in-town follow a woman (Misa Shimizu) to the grocery store than she falls into an undulating trance at the cheese counter, emits a puddle of clear moisture, and steals a hunk of feta. In the ensuing sexual tryst at her defunct-candy-factory house, the lovers are doused in a veritable gullywasher of vaginal fluid, which Imamura’s camera follows as it streams into the canal, attracting crowds of fish and gulls.
In several of the most ebullient sex scenes in any movie, Imamura manages to satirize the idealized plenitude of female biology just as he acknowledges its intoxicating impact, a warm sardonicism that extends to provincial life, romantic delusion, prostitution, and even racism. Indeed, in a sunny world of magical sexual floods, the only crime is industrial water-table poisoning… the movie is thrillingly original in its comic rhythms; Imamura never belabors a joke, and in fact often cuts them short, just to maintain a tipsy imbalance. (The subtitles, often a ball-and-chain for a comedy, are superbly timed.) Grinningly rounding out his résumé of desolate modern men, Yakusho remains a weary wonder to behold – Imamura couldn’t have found a more effective foil for his hootenanny on any continent." — Michael Atkinson, Village Voice