The Insect Woman (1963)

The Insect Woman (Nippon konchuki)
Directed by Shohei Imamura
Written by Keiji Hasebe and Shohei Imamura
First viewing/Netflix rental


“The shared secret and the shared denial are the most horrible aspects of incest.” ― John Bradshaw, Bradshaw on the Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem

Shohei Imamura gives us a good-looking film but, for me, it was two hours of seeing people I didn’t like doing stuff I would rather forget. Yuck.

Tome (Sachiko Hidari) is born into extreme poverty to tenant farmers in a remote village.  Seemingly, for these people anything goes.  Young Tome is sleeping with her father (or is he her step-father?) from an early age.  Eventually the extended family forces Tome to go to a rich landowner as a maid.  She is promptly raped and gives birth to her only child Nobuko.  During the war years, Tome escapes to do war work in the city.  She enjoys some happy moments as the mistress of a mill foreman and some independence when she becomes involved with union organizing. Nobuko and Tome’s father are left destitute when the extended family appropriates the money Tome sends home.

Tome remains in the city and eventually is more or less tricked into prostitution.  When she wins a wealthy “regular” she betrays the house madam to the police.  This allows her to go into business for herself.  She treats her girls as badly as the former madam.  Finally, Nobuko comes to town seeking a 200,000 loan for her share in a communal farm.  Nobuko catches the eye of Tome’s man and it looks like things might go full circle.

I think we were meant to feel sorry for Tome but by the end of the movie I was hoping that she would die so she couldn’t destroy any more people.  Imamura is 0 for 2 with me.  I must say that I could at least understand the plot with this one, which is more than I can say about Pigs and Battleships.

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