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Warm Water Under a Red Bridge
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by Thom

"An absurd premise hides not truth, but wisdom"
3 stars

While there is a plot, man loses job, hears rumor of treasure, goes in search of treasure, and in “growth moment” finds the treasure but its not what he expected, this film is non-linear in a very Japanese way: all pretty wrapping and ceremony. It paints a beautiful, delicate, sensual, raw picture that is slightly absurd and at times a little crass but the two gems of wisdom it contains prevent it from becoming a fools paradise. The Floating World is concerned with the fleeting pleasures of the moment, of beauty, of tenderness. It is a world concerned with style, design principals, aesthetic theories. It is, on the surface, entirely foppish. But it is a learned foppishness which makes the artists of the floating world excused for their behavior, because their life is all about performance and fetish. They are entirely respectable because they are deeply wise, yet deeply playful, deeply concerned and deeply detached.

The two real main characters are hidden in shadows, their existence is hinted at. They are half-legendary. Their progeny are used almost as puppets to divert your attention from the power, magic, and mystery of their existence. They hide themselves under obscurity and poverty. They seem to be the most powerless, most inconsequential, but they are the most powerful, the keeper of the secrets, the silent mentors of their world.

Yosuke (Koji Yakusho) goes in search of the treasure and finds Saeko (Misa Shimizu) who has the curious power of gushing water when sexually aroused. Indeed, the water builds up in her and causes her so much pain that she NEEDS sex to relieve it. Yosuke becomes the fortunate man to be her lover. The water turns him on and feeds his passion while making love which in turn heightens Saeko’s release.

Yosuke hears about the treasure from an old, homeless philosopher named Taro who has died. Taro is friends with Mitsu, Saeko’s seemingly senile mother. Mother and daughter run a sweets shop but business has waned. Mitsu still continues to write fortunes for the local Buddhist priests to give to the parishioners even though nobody ever comes to collect them. Through her obscure oracles she directs Yosuke to the treasure.

Taro and Mitsu are the old wisdom of the culture that is forgotten and rediscovered by every generation, seemingly by chance. Even though they are not the focus of the film, they are to me, the most interesting as the unacknowledged architects of satisfied desire.

The water gushing from between Saeko’s legs is just one of the comic themes in the film. There is an ongoing gag of a Nigerian runner training in the small Japanese village being chased by his trainer on a bicycle. He just appears out of nowhere whenever Yosuke is out for a walk. A Sub-Saharan African in Japan – it’s like an exotic sushi, a novelty to be puzzled over just for fun.

The film is a shifting tableau, it is what it is in each moment. American audiences are happiest when films are linear. If you look at how things are marketed, you come to the conclusion that a film has to be something – a comedy, or a drama, “in the vein of”. This movie is cherry blossoms drifting to the ground. There is water flowing down a drain, birds and a couple arguing. These elements all flow together in the miraculous chaos of a moment and you, the viewer are there to experience the sensations as if you were cast adrift in a boat.

It's not an extraordinary film, just an interesting one.

The novelty of experience is important to the Japanese and this film indulges that sense of being both the subject and object simultaneously. We are both living and watching ourselves living simultaneously – the audience to the show of our life. This film captures that almost evanescent yet pervasive sensibility perfectly.

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originally posted: 07/31/02 03:43:27
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User Comments

11/27/05 Curt the first 40 minutes of this film made no sense to me. I then went an innoculated myself 2 stars
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