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The Sea Is Watching
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Set in a 19th-century brothel, THE SEA IS WATCHING is the story of a beautiful young geisha, O-Shin(Nagiko Tohno), who harbors a samurai (Rhapsody in August's Hidetaka Yoshioka) seeking refuge. Falling in love with O-Shin, the samurai hopes to cleanse her of the sins of her profession. But fate and fortune conspire to keep the lovers apart. When another young man (Masatoshi Nagase, Mystery Train) appears, a thunderous storm strikes their village. What, if anything, will survive nature's fury? This stunning epic was the final film written by legendary director Akira Kurosawa (The Seven Samurai, Ran). Hand-picked by Kurosawa's son, director Kei Kumai delivers a visually striking love story for the ages.
To film lovers around the world, The Sea Is Watching is a welcome parting gift from Akira Kurosawa, who wrote the screenplay based on two short stories by one of his favorite authors, Syugoro Yamamoto, but was unable to make the film prior to his death in 1998. Kurosawa left detailed storyboards and production notes, entrusting veteran director Kei Kumai to bring his vision to the screen. The results are both glorious and rather mild, by Kurosawa standards, but this gentle melodrama about love, loss, and survival retains much of the peaceful optimism that informed Kurosawa's final films. Set in the 19th century Edo period, the story focuses on the prostitutes of a seaside village brothel, where the vulnerable geisha O-Shin (Nagiko Tohno) endures one heartbreaking love and a potential second, while the more cynical Kikuno (Misa Shimizu) combats misery with harmless fantasies that bolster her spirits. Nature plays a role, and a climactic typhoon has a cleansing effect, offering hope in the wake of destruction, as if the sea had been watching all along. And like the sea itself, Kurosawa's spirit washes over this beautiful film, compromised only by music that's more sentimental than Kurosawa would have allowed. -- Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
The Romance element was sweet. This film very accuratly depicted the risks one takes in the development of a relationship. The story with the young samurai was tragic, and in many ways realistic. For in the end, the castes, and misinterperated intentions, occur in many ways. The case of the misfortunate man, was equally moving and logical. But beyond this, was the devotion the girls in the teahouse had for each other.
I found some of the scenes (like the milky way scene) too unbelieveable,but only suceeeded to make it more charming. So i deducted the star for lagging on abit where it could have cut some useless scenes. (but who am i to critcize, i cant even spell)
The film begins with the bright side of the district and their life, its gaiety, camaraderie and even tranquility. The setting and story are so delightful and cheerful that after a few minutes I was inspired to pause the DVD and go fix a cup of steaming ko-kei cha and a plate of tea biscuits. A young samurai, fleeing the law after a fight, begs to stay the night. They hide him, disguising him as a commoner customer of O-Shin's. After a chaste night, he leaves with gratitude and we can see on her face that she is taken with him. Miss cautions her against falling in love, and when he comes to see her O-Shin sends him away, saying never return, believing he is forever beyond reach. He is in exile from his father's house, and must go in disguise, yet he keeps returning as the seasons turn, being turned away. One day, though, O-Shin runs after him, meeting on a wintry bridge. The others debate her wisdom, but becoming convinced of his devotion, and particularly when in the spring he earnestly explains she can lose her 'fallen woman' status by remaining 'pure' for some time, they offer to take on her customers yet share the proceeds. Everyone expects something to come of this, and they are involved and hopeful, seeing hope for themselvers if only by proxy. Some reluctantly, some eagerly, they come to believe the fairy tale will really happen.
Needless to say it does not work out (that shouldn't be a spoiler ..Read more ›
In fact, I've only seen one previous Akira Kurosawa film, "The Seven Samurai." "The Sea is Watching" is not actually by Kurosawa, although he wrote the screenplay and did story boards for the film before his death. The director, Kei Kumai, who completed the project, was hand picked by Kurosawa's son. Since I'm not a Kurosawa expert, I can't really comment on how true Kumai is to Kurosawa's spirit.
However, I can say that the film is excellent, a very involving tale focusing on O-Shin, a geisha seeking true love who has a bad habit of thinking she is in love only to learn her suitors feel differently. O-Shin is emotionally shattered when a samurai, who she believes loves her, indicates he is going to marry someone else.
But, she then meets a commoner, Ryosuke, whom she falls in love with. Ryosuke, however, is a troubled man and prospects with him do not look promising as he is apparently bent on taking vengence on someone (literally anyone) for past wrongs he has endured. The film climaxes when a storm strikes and the village O-Shin lives in is flooded and destroyed.
Although at times somewhat a little too detailed and draggy, this is a fascinating look at life in a small 19th century village and a lifestyle (that of the geisha) that has largely faded away in modern times.
late great master of Japanese Cinema Akira Kurosawa, but it fits very, VERY, nicely in a collection of his other films. Kurosawa's films mostly featured men and their world, particularly his early muscular films like Seven Samurai. I think he wrote this film after reflecting on this point. So seldom does the focus of the galaxy of samurai films remain on the jilted-lover, the poor woman left behind. Not only does this film do that, it focuses on the dregs of society - prostitutes. Yet the world of the prositiutes is not stark. It is rich and colorful. Here it is nice to see state-of-the-art production values brought to a Kurosawa story: we can watch one of his stories in crisp color. The basic story line is a theme universal in Kurosawa's films: the struggle for human dignity in an unforgiving world. Nature is also personified and plays a role in the drama - a recurring theme throughout Kurosawa's work.
The movie centers around a young geisha named O-Shin who seems destined for a higher life but is constantly ground into the dirt. Just as she thinks the worst has come, nature plays its part. The sea that watches the prostitures "water trade" and fleeting lives, fittingly has the last say. Director Kei Kumai may not possess Kurosawa's cinematic flair nor feverish genius.
But he does turn in a handsome film worthy to be included in Kurosawa's legacy.
Most recent customer reviews
one of kurasawa's most emotionally moving films. everyone knows someone who is like the lead character in this movie. Read morePublished on Sept. 15 2009 by cheezyridr
There is plenty of tantalizing hyperbole plastered on the packaging of this DVD..."Akira Kurosawa's final story!" "Director hand-picked by Kurosawa's son! Read morePublished on March 15 2004 by D. Hartley
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