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Meoto zenzai 1955

Toyoda Shiro’s award-winner “Marital Relations” (Meoto zenzai, 1955) is one of the director’s many adaptations from literary works, this one from a novel by Oda Sakunosuke. The film was quite popular with critics, and received both a sequel and a remake in the 1960’s. I recently viewed another Oda adaptation “Firefly Light” (Hotarubi, 1958), by director Gosho Heinosuke. Based on these two films, I seem to have trouble tuning into the correct frequency of the Oda adaptations, as their intended tone continuously escapes me.”Marital relations” could be a nice starring vehicle for actress Awashima Chikage. The plot-line fits that purpose. Awashima plays Choko, a daughter of a working class family, who makes her living as a geisha in the Japan of 1932/1933. Choko has just hooked up with Ryukichi (Morishige Hisaya), the spoiled son of a rich family who leaves his sick wife and teenage daughter to be with her. Because the new love interest comes from an upper class, he is not a practical sort, and can’t really do any work. So Choko returns to her work as a geisha and supports her man, which becomes increasingly difficult when the man starts spending all of her hard-earned money…There is certain universality to a narrative, where a hooker with a heart of gold meets the prodigal son. There could be potential for both drama and comedy, but this never chooses one over the other. Comically, the scenario brought to mind Billy Wilder’s “Irma la Douce” (1963), but the overall dark atmosphere and desperation of the characters stops this from being funny. And for a drama this is really mismatched. Awashima is doing her best as Choko, but Morishige Hisaya seems to be from a different film entirely. Because of his hair-cut, he appeared almost like a “Tora-san from hell”, if Tora-san was a cold-hearted man who did not care for anybody but himself. There is no balance between the two, and the husband is such a piece of work, that the audience isn’t rooting for them to stay together. Since they aren’t married, they aren’t forced to do that either.I think there were lots of interesting themes that were under-analyzed, such as Choko’s troubles being a homewrecker, which are now and again mentioned, but get sidetracked whenever there is a more comedic scene. Interestingly, the film features a sequence of “amusing domestic violence”. It is amusing, because it’s the wife beating up the husband, that’s amusing, right?All in all, this film did not really work for me. There are many better ones dealing with similar themes, whether they be comedies or tragedies. The duration of two hours did not help the film either.

Duration: 121 min


IMDb: 7.2