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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Warm Water Under a Red Bridge (Akai hashi-no shita-no nurui mizu) (2001)

Yosuke: When you fill up like that, then you shoplift?
Saeko: Yes, I can't stop myself. I have to do something wicked.

- Koji Yakusho, Misa Shimizu

Review By: Robert Edwards  
Published: August 26, 2003

Stars: Koji Yakusho, Misa Shimizu
Other Stars: Yukija Kitamura, Kazuo Kitamura
Director: Shohei Imamura

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexual scenes)
Run Time: 01h:54m:31s
Release Date: June 24, 2003
UPC: 037429180921
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B-C+C+ C-

DVD Review

Shohei Imamura, sometimes called "the world's best unknown film director," began his career at the Shochiku Company in 1951, and later worked with the better-appreciated Yasujiro Ozu on his Early Spring and the three films that followed. Three years later, he joined Nikkatsu, and in 1958 directed his first film, Stolen Desire. Although his early films were successful, Imamura moved into documentaries in the '70s, only to burst on the international film scene with 1982's The Ballad of Narayama, which won the Palme d'or at the Cannes Film Festival. Since then he has worked sporadically, and Warm Water Under a Red Bridge is his most recent effort.

Yosuke Sasano's (Koji Yakusho) life of boring conformity has recently been thrown into turmoil with the bankruptcy of his company and the need to move his wife and son out of expensive Tokyo. Desperate for money, he recalls the words of the late Taro (Kazuo Kitamura), who claims to have hidden a gold statue worth one million yen in a house overlooking a red bridge in the town of Nato. He finds the house, and follows a woman who emerges from it to a supermarket, where he observes her not only steal some cheese, but also drop an earring into a mysterious puddle of water at her feet.

Yosuke returns to the house and invites himself in, meeting a senile old granny and the young woman, Saeko (Misa Shimizu). She asks him if he wants a snack of cheese, and soon she is on top of him, tearing off his clothes. It won't be giving away too much to say that they have carnal relations, and that Yosuke is dumbfounded, but not repulsed, when water begins to spray from a certain part of her body.

Intrigued, Yosuke decides to stick around, despite the incessant calls from his wife asking him for money, and finds local employment. He soon develops a relationship with Saeko, although it's initially more in the nature of fulfilling her unusual needs, rather than love. He's still interested in finding the statue, but other events are afoot that will soon distract him.

Imamura's last three features, of which Warm Water Under a Red Bridge is the most recent, are the work of a splendidly mature film director (Imamura was 75 when Warm Water was made). Breaking with Ozu's austerity, Imamura is a master at mixing formally composed and edited scenes with a graceful fluidity of camerawork. Many scenes are shot naturalistically, but a scene that evidences the director's hand (such as an interior conversation, shot through a window, with one of the speakers' backs to us) is never long to follow. Much of the visual interest in Imamura's work comes from this mix of formality and seeming naturalism.

This film is in many ways similar to, and could almost be considered a remake of Imamura's The Eel, which was filmed four years earlier and tied for the Palme d'or at Cannes, as well as winning numerous other awards. Both of them are tales of a lonely man who journeys to a remote locale and there finds not only a warm and accepting community, but also love. There are common thematic elements, and both films could be called examples of "magical realism," containing completely non-naturalistic events, and there is also a good deal of quiet, gentle humor in each, often via the fondly-observed quirks and eccentricities of the local populace.

These parallels continue in the symmetry of their plots—in The Eel, the protagonist meets a woman who resembles his dead wife, and in Warm Water, the protagonist resembles the dead boyfriend of the woman he meets. Unfortunately, the films also share an major flaw—despite the skill and careful control with which the narrative of each has been assembled, towards the end there is a hurried mishmash of incident and plot exposition, as if Imamura had suddenly run out of time to tie up all of the loose plot threads. Both films share the same main actors, and even the names of the films make explicit their primary symbolic element, although this is less obvious in the case of Warm Water Under a Red Bridge, unless you think about it carefully!

But Warm Water is definitely the lesser film. Its pacing is off, with some sequences that could be considered boring, and its symbolism is depressingly schematic, compared to the earlier work. This is not to say that it should be ignored in favor of The Eel, as it shines in comparison with just about anything else out there.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: For the most part, the transfer is solid, with strong, vibrant colors. However it is soft throughout, and as a result there is little detail in images that would have been quite beautiful if the transfer were a bit better. Line enhancement is evident, but never becomes distracting. In any case, it blows the murky, drab transfer on Deltamac's Region 3 release completely out of the water.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseyes

Audio Transfer Review: This is a reasonable two-channel transfer, although fidelity does seem a bit limited, especially in the bass. As with the image, it's a shame the transfer wasn't better, which would have allowed Shinichiro Ikebe's mocking score to come through better. There is little to no activity in the surrounds.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Four-page insert with production notes and chapter listing
Extras Review: Extras are minimal—an original theatrical trailer, with a transfer worse than the feature, biographical notes and filmography of Imamura, and a four-page insert, which contains a chapter listing and an analysis of the film by Dave Kehr. The menus are amusing—with each selection, their is a "plop," as if a pebble had been dropped into water, and the image dissolves in ripples before switching to the next screen.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Shohei Imamura's most recent work, Warm Water Under a Red Bridge, is a magical tale of one man's quest for money that turns out to be something quite different. The beautiful cinematography and the director's skill come through in a solid-looking transfer.


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