Woman of the Lake (1966) watch online

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Director: Yoshishige Yoshida
Stars: Mariko Okada, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi, Tamotsu Hayakawa
Language: Japanese | Subtitles: English
Country: Japan

Also known as : Onna no mizûmi, Le lac de la femme, Onna no mizuumi, The Lake

Miyako Mizuki ((Mariko Okada), a wife and mother, becomes romantically involved with Kitano, her interior decorator. At first a simple flirtation, the relationship soon develops into a passionate affair with secret meetings in seedy hotels. Miyako permits Kitano to take nude photographs of her as a keepsake. The negatives, however, fall into the hands of Ginpei Momoi, a teacher who has often observed the lovers in a hotel near his school. Obsessed with Miyako, Ginpei informs her that he has the negatives and arranges to meet her.

Yoshishige Yoshida (sometimes transliterated as Kiju Yoshida) is a key Japanese New Wave filmmaker and one of the most underrated movie directors of all time. Woman of the Lake stars his wife Mariko Okada once again, and is based on the novel by Yasunari Kawabata. The story itself isn’t that interesting on paper, however Yoshida creates an incredibly captivating and lyrical film out of it.

The cinematography is flawless. The film begins in one of Yoshida’s customs, with a cold opening before the credits, and ends in one of the most remarkable final shots I’ve seen in a while. Among the film’s themes is the element of stalking and intrusion, which is reflected by many shots which show the characters seen through gaps, windows and battered holes, making the scenes look voyeuristic in nature. The characters are often seen through mirrors, windows and reflective surfaces (one of Yoshida’s running themes seems to be alienation or existentialism). Okada’s figure is sometimes shown in manners which seem to divide her or split her in two. Even in the beginning, when the negatives get stolen, the way the scene is cut makes it look like there are two women there instead of one.

Of course I have to mention the breathtaking images of nature – that second part of the film, where the characters wander around shipwrecks on the coast, or the human-faced cliff… No words. The shot composition and chiaroscuro lighting is out of this world. I’m also quite fond of the quiet scene which is suddenly interrupted by a loud sound of waves crashing – the sound that quiets down as the camera focuses in on the waves. It’s a perfect compound of both visuals and sound.

The music consists of a single theme that plays constantly, and sounds very fitting to the film. It adds to the enchanting atmosphere. The majority of the non-speaking parts are silent though, and combined with long shots they succeed in creating a feeling of discomfort and mystery.

Even if you don’t find yourself caring much about the plot, you have to admit those visuals are astounding. Wow.



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