Warm Water Under a Red Bridge (Akai hashi no shita no nurui mizu)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Year Released: 2001, 2023 Film Movement digitally restored
Runtime: 1h 59m
Director(s): Shôhei Imamura
Writer(s): Yo Henmi (novel,) Shôhei Imamura, Daisuke Tengan, Motofumi Tomikawa (screenplay)
Cast: Kôji Yakusho, Misa Shimizu
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
Where To Watch: opens theatrically at Bam Rose Cinemas on March 31, 2023, with additional markets to follow from Film Movement Classics
RAVING REVIEW: Director Shôhei Imamura's swan song, WARM WATER UNDER A RED BRIDGE, weaves a spellbinding tale about a middle-aged man who embarks on a journey in a coastal village following a meeting with a woman possessing extraordinary powers. This enchanting film mesmerizes viewers with its seamless blend of magical realism, sensuality, and humor, offering a thoroughly enjoyable and liberating experience. I can promise you; it will be a film you won’t soon forget!
The story centers on a once-successful man struggling with life and estranged from his family. He journeys to a remote fishing town, searching for his future. He stumbles upon a captivating woman with a remarkable secret I can’t quite explain here. The villagers are convinced that her peculiar condition nurtures the river and its marine life, eliciting admiration and unease. As the man's fascination with her grows, he sets out on a new path. Their passionate relationship allows the director to explore themes of desire, imagination, and the pursuit of happiness in the most unlikely places.
Imamura crafts a multi-dimensional portrayal of this female character, who embodies the essence of life and the power of nature. The water motif is more than clear between the seaside community, mirroring the evolution of the human spirit. The film is a hopeful experience; while I haven’t seen Imamura’s other films, I’ve noticed that this seems to be the outlier in that narrative.
At the heart of this unconventional romance are two extraordinary characters: this humble man who reinvents himself after losing his job and the fascinating woman with vitality and wonder. This is a tale of two films, both taking place within the same world, from a serious drama to an absurd “love story” that will leave you laughing, among other things.
Imamura demonstrates his prowess in employing a range of cinematic techniques to tell this tale, from dreamlike sequences to semi-documentary-style representations of fishing scenes, all while maintaining authenticity. Though the film might seem deceptively simple initially, it blossoms and deepens as the story progresses.
WARM WATER UNDER A RED BRIDGE is a visual experience overflowing with magical realism, eroticism, and comedy. Ultimately, the man's quest for material riches evolves into a search for happiness and fulfillment, which he discovers in his newfound freedom and connection with the mesmerizing woman.
In conclusion, this film presents a charming and atypical love story that shares the virtues of individuality and the wonders of life's peculiarities.
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[film courtesy of FILM MOVEMENT CLASSICS]