Welcome to this week’s edition of FilmStruck Friday! Every Friday here on TMP, with the exception of the first Friday of the month (which is reserved for “Favorite things about…”), we’ll be taking a look at a film available through the TCM and Criterion Collection streaming service. Today’s film comes from 1948 – Woman, directed by Keisuke Kinoshita. Happy viewing!
Toshiko (Mitsuko Mito) is a woman in post-war Japan working as a chorus girl. She’s been dating a man named Tadashi (Eitaro Ozawa), but she’s not too keen on the idea of staying with him. Tadashi isn’t exactly a man whose dealings are on the up-and-up, and Toshiko isn’t sure she wants to be a part of his criminal life.
Still, she agrees to take a train to the countryside to meet with him. What Toshiko doesn’t know is that Tadashi is on the run from the law, and doesn’t just want her to meet him in the countryside. He wants her to go on the run with him.
Onna, known in English as Woman, was written and directed by Keisuke Kinoshita.
Onna intrigues the viewer from the beginning, opening with a mesmerizing stage performance and then leading into Toshiko’s meeting with Tadashi. Tadashi is a very forceful man, and seems to be a guilty criminal.
When Toshiko is forced to go on the run with Tadashi, the film becomes very suspenseful. Their journey could go wrong in many ways, at any minute. It also becomes clear that Tadashi has tried to control Toshiko’s life long before this run-from-law road trip, which is heart-wrenching.
The viewer becomes very empathetic to Toshiko’s predicament, and very emotionally invested in the film. Mitsuko Mito’s performance is very effective and, along with the story, contributes greatly to the viewer’s engagement with the story.
Toshiko’s desperation to free herself from Tadashi lends a claustrophobia to the film as well, even when the pair is traveling through open fields.
The film focuses wholly on these two people. While others appear and have maybe a handful of lines, the film devotes itself to its central characters and their relationship. It’s simple, but incredibly effective storytelling.
Just as with the first Kinoshita film I watched, Waga koi seshi otome, Onna features fantastic photography and use of music. I’m sensing this will be a common compliment as I continue to explore his filmography!
In just over an hour, Onna manages to offer up an on-the-run thriller, an exploration of the lasting impacts of war, a discussion of good and evil, and a story of a toxic and abusive relationship. Wrapping it all up with a high-drama ending, Onna is absolutely worth a watch.