Yosuke Sasano (Koji Yashuko) has a wife but no job. The only lead he has has is through his friend, Taro (Kazuo Kitamura), who tells him about a treasure pot he hid in a house in a town where a river meets the sea. He goes to that house, which the Aizawas now own. The older Aizawa (Mitsuko Baishô) is a kooky clairvoyant. The younger member of that family is Saeko (Misa Shimizu). Saeko has a female ejaculation problem, which worsens when she does two things. The first is when she shoplifts, and the second is when she has sex with certain kinds of guys. As it turns out, Yosuke is one of those kind of guys. This is basically what Warm Water Under a Red Bridge is about.
Shohei Imamura lived a long life and had a long career as a director. He came out with his swan song Warm Water at 75, five years before his death at the age of 80. This movie is the strangest way to introduce viewers to the man’s filmography. From light research, said filmography focuses more on the dramatic side of sex than its comedic side. The movie has its share of sex scenes, reminding us that sex can be both funny and hot, but it also has scenes where Yosuke and Saeko know more about each other. These scenes, which have more dialogue than usual, shed more insight on Saeko as a character instead of treating her as a joke.
Yosuke treats Saeko as a human being more than Warm Water does, although there are moments when it feels like the movie is doing too much on that front. Less than two hours feels a bit long for this adaptation of Yo Hemni’s sex comedy, and some of the things it packs into that running time include a flashback scene depicting how the Aizawa’s tried to rid themselves of the ejaculation curse. The movie both looks at the past and the future and how the couple fits into that context. But some of the things it does for context makes the movie feel like something older than its 2001 release. It doesn’t help that the comedy in some scenes feel slightly stereotypical.
Warm Water‘s forward thinking ethos also has a few warnings of what’s wrong with movies today. The movie involves Yosuke taking up fishing as a living, as well as people slinking back into his life. Those scenes often happen at night, which feel too dark aesthetically. Thankfully though, the daytime scenes have painterly warmth to them to justify a city mouse living in a smaller town. Characters to disappear in the first act and reappear and maybe multiply in the third to solve conflicts, which I’ll allow. After all, a man has to choose between treasure and a woman. Even with that conflict though, the movie mostly hits the emotional beats it needs to satisfy viewers.
Brooklyn cinephiles luck out on getting Warm Water Under a Red Bridge at the Bam Rose Cinema. The rest of us can watch the film through Film Movement.