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Warm Water Under a Red Bridge

Almost every movie requires some suspension of disbelief, even (or perhaps especially) romantic comedies. Most hotel maids don't really look like J. Lo, for example, and very few blonde sorority girls get into Harvard Law on the strength of how they look in a bikini. But romances that tread in the realm of magical realism ask even more from their audiences — that food can be infused with emotion (Like Water for Chocolate, Chocolat), that grape vines grow only in golden sunshine and lacy mist (A Walk in the Clouds), or, in the case of Warm Water Under a Red Bridge, that a woman can be literally so full of water and emotion that it spurts out of her in pools and jets, especially when she's having sex. Shohei Imamura's fanciful tale — based on a novel by Yo Henmi — proposes just that, following the relationship between down-on-his-luck Japanese businessman Yosuke Sasano (Koji Yakusho) and lustfully liquid sweet-maker Saeko Aizawa (Misa Shimizu). The jobless, Tokyo-dwelling Yosuke finds himself in Saeko's charming fishing village at the behest of a dead friend, Taro (Kazuo Kitamura), who told Yosuke on his deathbed that he left a treasure hidden there many years before. As it happens, Saeko lives in the very house Taro directed Yosuke to find, caring for her aging grandmother (Mitsuko Baisho) and, when she gets too full of the water that builds up inside her, shoplifting (the thrill of doing something wicked takes the edge off). Yosuke at first sees Saeko as the means to an end — retrieving the treasure — but he's quickly fascinated and aroused by her condition and captivated by her warm personality and giving nature. Time passes, and Yosuke begins to rebuild his life, finding work on a local fishing boat and sorting out all the changes he never saw coming. Veteran director Imamura, a two-time Palm d'Or winner at Cannes, obviously has a deep affection for his country and its people — Warm Water Under a Red Bridge is often charming, and as a look at the strange ways that life works and how fate can bring two people together, it's an appealing, engaging film. Unfortunately, Saeko's "malady" distracts from that, jarring in its ferocity and strangeness. As a metaphor for desire and emotion, fountains of spurting water are hardly subtle, and in the context of a sweet film like this one, they're all wet. Home Vision's DVD offers a crisp anamorphic transfer (1.85), Japanese stereo audio, and English subtitles, plus the theatrical trailer, an Imamura biography/filmography, and an insert with notes by New York Times film writer Dave Kehr. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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