Oh that Mitsuko! If you like your lovers constantly conniving and horrifyingly manipulative, you’ll love Mitsuko. I won’t spoil any of her surprises, but she doesn’t disappoint! The storyline is sort of like a Japanese Peyton Place gone berserk, centered Mitsuko’s sociopathic seduction of an unhappily married woman and later of her hapless husband, accomplished through a series of ingeniously warped mind games. Mitsuko has her own problems, however, with another lover who not only traps his rivals in humiliating situations, he gets them to sign legal documents testifying to the facts! Yet he’s no Mitsuko, and by the end, her single-minded need to be loved and worshipped reaches a level too great to be contained in earthly existence.
Yasuzo Masumara packs an astonishing load of hysteria, scheming, eroticism, and obsession into ninety minutes. Can the source novel by Junichiro Tanizaki possibly match this? Surely the author was pleased with Ayako Wakao’s performance as the centerpiece of the story. Her Mitsuko never lets up, even when the audience may feel exhausted or even obliterated by her madness. Though her machinations stun in their complexity, Mitsuko is just too explosive and flat-out crazy to qualify as a femme fatale. This character really demands a new terminology! She can’t exist without love, however: Kyoko Kishida plays the fly to Mitsuko’s spider, and she excels at treading frantically in the inescapable whirlpool of desire churned up by her beloved. All the Mitsuko magnetism points toward the characters’ self-destruction, which feels both inevitable and deserved. I enjoyed the headlong descent into Mitsuko-obsession, beginning in whispers, then sliding into scandal, then screams, and finally turning so intense that the characters can no longer even function in society! * Perhaps what I remember most about the movie, as much as all the crazed declarations, fantastic dresses, blood oaths, and twisted uses of sleep medication, is the part of Mitsuko’s maid, who must have the most unusual domestic servant duties on earth. Ah, to serve Mitsuko!