Cinema: “The Housewife”, the love and emancipation of a wax doll

The Housewife **

by Yukiko Mishima

Japanese film, 2 h 03

Toko embodies the perfect woman, according to Japanese canons. “A Wax Doll”, as they say there. A submissive and discreet housewife, in the service of her lord and master, her husband, she gave up her career as an architect to become an exemplary wife and mother. The lucky one only shows him a form of indifference, softened by the conjugal duty to which Toko consents without much pleasure.

One evening, when her only “utility” is to accompany her husband to a professional ceremony, Toko accidentally finds Kurata, the love of her life, an architect who has been lost sight of for ten years. We know what happens with badly extinguished lights. A simple current of air revives them with force. Their past passion flares up again, instantly. They were made for each other; Life has decided otherwise. But watch out for the backfire.

Against the advice of her husband, who is satisfied with the “balance” of the marital status quo, Toko wants to start working again, regain control of her life. She is engaged in the same agency as her lover. Their affair, which they believe to be secret, does not escape the attention of their colleagues, one of whom is pressing, almost threatening, to delight Toko, who is in full swing. She is torn between her family life, from which she detaches herself, and the ardor of her feelings for Kurata, enigmatic and solitary, who seems weighed down by a heavy past.

Red and black, blood and snow

Yukiko Mishima favors an aesthetic with a predominance of red and black, blood and night, and the white of the snow which continues to cover the decor of this tragic romance with its immaculate coat. Time suspended, gestures in slow motion, the dazzling flash of a fatal encounter, embraces before words. Vanishing lines of a car, moving behind closed doors, on perilous roads that the night absorbs, enveloped in a ballet of flakes that slows down its progress but makes feelings more acute.

→ ANALYSIS. In Japan, the man works and the woman takes care of the children.

The Japanese filmmaker is openly inspired, the reference is cited several times and even serves as a love bond, from the essay by her compatriot Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, Shadow Praise, who defended Japanese chiaroscuro against the too bright lights of the West. The two lovers, brought together by the desire to build their own house with vast openings, a refuge of light and preserved intimacy, evolve in the nuances of a delicate chromaticism where “Shadow Woman” lose ground. Before being called upon to decide.

Adapted from Redthe novel by Rio Shimamoto (2014), which made waves in Japan when it was released, Housewife is also imbued with the atmosphere and the imagination ofA doll’s house of Ibsen, or the emancipation of a woman who gradually becomes aware of her conjugal alienation. This fascinating film is unfortunately weighed down, at times, by an excessive use of melodrama which somewhat spoils the brilliance of the production.


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