Imamura’s engaging traveling theater troupe rom-com “Stolen Desire”


Nagato Hiroyuki was  likeable in Imamura Shohei ’s second (some sources, including Audie Bock’s Japanese Film Directors) say first)  movie, “Stolen Desire” (Nusumareta yokujô, 1958) in which he played the lead, Shinichi, a college graduate and nominal director of a troupe of actors (he draws the curtain back and forth and can’t get anyone to rehearse what he wants to do). He not only gets laid, but instead of chasing after a young woman (as in “Endless Desire” before, “Pigs and Battleships” after it) has one catching up and joining him (Chigusa, the (married) older sister of the one he slept with the night before, Chidori).


Not at all a noir, it is sunny for an Imamura film, even with typical Japanese movie heavy rain. The cinematography Takamura Kuratarô’ [Suzuki’s “Tattooed Life”]) was good, if quite different from that of Himeda Shinsaku. There are panoramas of Osaka and of the countryside, as well as extended stage performances (burlesque and quasi-kabuki). There are some Ozu-level shots, but more long shots and more closeups.


There are some humans behaving like pigs, local youths who kidnap and actress after peeping at the bathing actresses, but no femme fatale. The unemployed youths remind me of Fellini’s “I Vitelloni,” while the struggling troupe is something like (but not tragic) “La Strada.” The frustrated director is much younger and more sexually inexperienced than Mastroianni in “8 ½.”

The studio slapped on the racy title; Imamura’s had been “Tent Theater”). Though Imamura became one of the prototypical figures of the Japanese “New Wave,” this was conventionally shot f a “youth movie.”

©2016, Stephen O. Murray




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