The Sea Is Watching

"OK"

The Sea Is Watching Review


The art film world is watching... to see if this movie made from a screenplay by Japan's most eminent auteur, Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood), will bear the stamp of the master. Unfortunately, we get a vivid demonstration of the difference between a screenplay and a movie. The script is only the blueprint, and director Ken Kumai is not Kurosawa.

Kurosawa adapted his script from two short stories by Shugoro Yamamoto about a brothel in a seaside village during the Edo period (Tokyo before 1868). The Sumida River runs through Okabasho, separating the red light district from the gentry and allowing men certain freedoms from social restraint. Into this island of ill repute, and into our brothel, comes Fusanosuke (Hidetaka Yoshioka) a rather puny looking Samurai, fleeing from an altercation in which he wounded a senior Samurai. Besides having that Samurai's colleagues and local police on his tail, he's been ostracized from his father and family for the affront.

He lands in the arms of O-Shin (Nagiko Tohno -- Okoge, Unagi), a geisha whose story this is. Against the advice of her prostitute mentor and friend Kikuno (Misa Shimizu), O-Shin harbors the fugitive, hides his presence from investigating police and proceeds to fall in love with him. The entire "staff" is aghast at the development but comes around to accepting it and honoring the slim warrior when he returns for continuing visits with O-Shin -- visits which do not include anything more than conversation. In one visit, Fusanosuke gives O-Shin the advice to cleanse herself by giving up her line of work. Believing this is what has been his requirement for their betrothal, she turns her customers over to her willing cohorts, believing in a return to virginity.

The ladies are in for a huge disappointment when the Samurai informs O-Shin, with obvious delight, that he's finally been reconciled with his family and that he's getting married -- and not to O-Shin. Enforcing the traditional notion that romance between the classes in this feudal society is all but impossible, the interlude ends with her throwing him out of the house.

Enter Ryosuke (Masatoshi Nagase), another puny looking traveler, but down a few notches in social class than his predecessor. This makes him a truer soul mate and, seeing the process start up again, Kukuno warns her love-needy sister to come to her mercenary senses about getting emotionally involved with the clientele. But O-Shin follows her heart once more and dedicates herself to teaching the hot-tempered, downtrodden Ryosuke something about the meaning and fulfillments in life, setting up the film's message of triumph over weakness and adversity.

But wait -- not so fast. Just when emotional issues seem to be stabilizing, there's nature to deal with, as the title portends. O-Shin's hopes get dashed when the fury of a typhoon batters the red light district, destroying all the brothels on the street and sending most of the working girls fleeing for their lives. In the storm's wake, the sea rises to levels never seen before. O-Shin and Kikuno choose to ride out the flood until they're on the roof of their establishment looking death in the face.

It's not that Kurosawa has never brought exaggerated natural forces into his stories. But inconvenient elemental power doesn't do much to fulfill these characters or help this story rise above the artificial. There is too much coincidence and pretend emotion reaching for larger meanings. In terms of casting, one wonders why a spiritless O-Shin falls so mechanically for two guys with about as much appeal as rice. The formalized protocol and behavior of a geisha house, while probably conveyed with some accuracy, further dampens empathy for the inhabitants.

Would the Kurosawa sensibility have assembled a better cast and engaged us more viscerally in the character relationships? As it is, it seems more a framed tribute than an involving experience and the memory of it is likely to fade halfway across the lobby as we hardcases leave the theatre.

Aka Umi wa Miteita; The Sea Watches.

Four little maids.



The Sea Is Watching

Facts and Figures

Run time: 119 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 27th July 2002

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Fresh: 15 Rotten: 11

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Ken Kumai

Producer:

Starring: as Kikuno, Nagiko Tôno as O-Shin, as Fusanosuke, Eiji Okuda as Ginji, as Ryosuke

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.