Koji Yakusho stars as Yosuke Sasano, a man who has recently
lost his job at a large company. After speaking to a homeless man, he learns of
a treasure that was left behind when the man left another town some years before.
The treasure is to be found in a house by a red bridge. Yosuke sets off to find
the treasure for the man, being told that if he finds it he can sell it and
keep the profits (the man only wants to know what happened to the treasure).
When he arrives, he meets Saeko Aizawa, played by Misa Shimizu. The woman
suffers from a peculiar condition which means that she feels herself filling
with water. The only way to alleviate her discomfort is by shoplifting, or
having sex, which causes the water to leak or gush out of her like a geyser.
Soon Yosuke’s mission to find the treasure is forgotten as he becomes enamoured
of Saeko, deciding to remain in the town, beginning a new life with her, and
taking up a role aboard a fishing vessel.
Shohei Imamura won plaudits for his film “The Eel”, and
“Warm Water under a Red Bridge” sees the writer-director again ploughing his
own unique furrow. The film is a curious mix, with mystery, romantic drama and
sex comedy thrown in. This sense of wrong-footing the audience pervades
everything, and you are never sure whether you are watching farce or
philosophy. Koji Yakusho and Misa Shimizu navigate their way through the
genres, crafting believable characters in unbelievable situations. The film
centres on sex and is humorously explicit while never being obscene in its
depiction. The fountains of water spraying everywhere comically undercut the
drama and create a sense of joy through humour that captures the emotion of
love in a way that few films manage. Other characters, the three fishermen at
the bridge, the marathon runner, and Koji’s workmates help to fill out a world
that seems to be full of quirky individuals. The musical accompaniment by Shinichiro
Ikebe is full of odd percussion and synthesisers, slipping from unnerving as
Koji explores the unusual town, to comical as he gets entangled in ever more
Trying to understand “Warm Water under a Red Bridge” is
quite a challenge. It is a film that subverts expectations again and again,
drifting from serious to ridiculous (often in the space of a single scene). It
is a film that discusses the relationship between lust, sex and love. Yosuke is
a man who is smitten with Saeko. Their passionate relationship is built around
the sex, but the film asks what lies beneath this and what love is. Yosuke is
also given good advice by his friend who tells him to stop overthinking things
and to basically do whatever makes you feel good. This idea of seeking after
personal satisfaction is one that pervades the film. Saeko is likewise a woman
who is struggling to satiate her desires, and fills the emotional emptiness by stealing.
The marathon runner, the fishermen, everyone is either waiting for something,
searching or working towards some goal that is of the utmost importance to them.
Yosuke is at first on the hunt for money, treasure, financial reward, and his
journey of self-discovery is one that will lead him to the answer of what he is
truly searching for.