Review: ‘Umineko – Inseparable’

Yoshimitsu Morita's "Umineko -- Inseparable," based on a bestseller about a woman in love with her husband's brother, sends mixed messages, tonally. Set, like Hirokazu Koreeda's evocative "Maborishi," in the alien environment of a fishing village, pic cheerfully plunges into full-blown meller mode, complete with multiple hysterical climaxes.

Yoshimitsu Morita’s “Umineko — Inseparable,” based on a bestseller about a woman in love with her husband’s brother, sends mixed messages, tonally. Set, like Hirokazu Koreeda’s evocative “Maborishi,” in the alien environment of a fishing village, pic cheerfully plunges into full-blown meller mode, complete with multiple hysterical climaxes. But the cool distance Morita maintains from his overdrawn characters — the tottering, fragile heroine, the coarse, blustering husband and the sensitive, brooding lover — nearly tips them into caricature, recalling the wicked irony of Morita’s “Family Game.” Teetering between tragedy and absurdity, “Umineko” stands as a disappointing entry in Morita’s already uneven oeuvre.

Pic opens on a quasi-slapstick note when a young woman’s face is shmushed into her birthday cake by her indignant fiance because her dead mother was involved in a scandal. The mother (a luminous, ethereal Misaki Ito) is introduced in flashback in full white-kimonoed wedding regalia. Bygone tale of mismatched parents’ mutual infidelities is messy but not intrinsically tragic, the problems largely stemming from the adulterous couple’s addiction to poetic self-sacrifice. Since neither the characters’ ridiculousness nor their suffering holds sway, the viewer is constantly conflicted, denied even the solace of camp.

Umineko - Inseparable

Japan

Production

A Toei presentation of a Toei production. Produced by Sunao Sakagami. Directed by Yoshimitsu Morita. Screenplay, Tomomi Tsutsui, from the novel by Shiho Tanimura.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Minoru Ishiyama; editor, Shinji Tanaka; music, Michiru Oshima. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Focus on World Cinema), Aug. 30, 2005. Running time: 129 MIN.

With

Misaki Ito, Toru Nakamura, Koichi Sato, Mimura, Hirjiri Kojima, Yu Aoi, Yushiko Mita.

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