JapaneseShiro Shimomoto
Snow / Woman
Medium: film
Year: 2000
Director: Mitsuru Meike
Keywords: boobs
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Yota Kawase, Kiyomi Ito, Shiro Shimomoto
Format: 60 minutes
Url: http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B0001IMD74
Website category: J-sleaze
Review date: 15 October 2013
It's a Mitsuru Meike pink film, although my information on it's a bit sketchy. It got an English-language DVD release in 2004, but imdb claims not to have heard of it.
The plot has nothing to do with the folk tale of Yuki-Onna, although it gets a name-check at one point. Instead it's set in the real world. Kawase Yota is having regular sex with a married lady, Ito Kiyomi. They live in a village with gloomy weather and lots of snow. Ito finds this oppressive, so she informs Kawase early on that she's planning to move out and would he like to come too? After that, the film alternates between scenes of (a) Kawase on his own with his ever-growing psychological instabilities, (b) Kawase with Ito. We don't know what the latter are. They might be real. They might be fantasies. They might be flashbacks. All we know is that Solitary Kawase seems to be going mad in the snow.
Awesome snow, by the way. Sometimes I think there's nothing more beautiful than snow. As the title suggests, this is a film about two different kinds of beautiful things that, if you're not careful, can be dangerous.
It's not very pink. There are sex scenes and one scene where Ito Kiyomi is naked and having a mimed conversation for a few minutes, but the film just doesn't seem interested in flashing the flesh. In the first sex scene, both actors are clothed. Furthermore, I'd guess Ito Kiyomi's in her forties, although she's in good shape. At one point Kawase guesses that Ito's reached the menopause and she doesn't kill him. As pink films go, this doesn't feel exploitative.
Unfortunately it also doesn't feel very interesting. It's about the mental deterioration of a man whose face we hardly see. Kawase's character is something of a blank slate. We're always looking at the people he's talking to, rather than Kawase himself. He's not the focus. He's a rather passive, unimaginative man who's presumably lived in this village all his life and works as a farmer. When he meets women, they're the dynamic ones who make all the running. He's a lump in his first meeting with Ito and her husband and it's Ito who does all the talking and practically drags him away. He also has an ex-girlfriend who wants to have sex with him and won't take "no" for an answer, even when he says he's in love with Ito. (This ex-girlfriend goes down on her knees and unzips him, after which it transpires that Kawase's not as noble as he thinks.)
Kawase's world drifts further from reality. He goes from "maybe her husband's planning to kill me?" to getting a knife and going to kill her husband because he'll be able to plead self-defence. Also note the dog. Is it dead or alive? We still don't know the meaning or objective reality of any given scene. Eventually, it comes to an end... but the film's games with narrative chronology mean that even that's up for grabs and we don't know when it ended for Kawase.
I doubt the practicality of Kawase's ambitions. He's willing to give up everything in order to live with Ito, but this is a woman who regrets marrying her husband because of the weather in his village. (It has grey skies, which is unusual in Japan. She'd go crazy in Britain.) This is not a sentimental lady. I have trouble imagining her choosing to stay with a man who's discarded his only source of livelihood, i.e. his farm, in order to be with a woman.
At the end of the day, a story like this depends on how well it captures its claustrophobic psychological world... and I don't think this film does, really. Kawase's too much of a blank. We're watching the disintegration of a walking outline. I presume this is deliberate, in an "insert your own face here" way, but it reduces the power of the film when we don't really feel we've got to know the guy. It's the rest of the cast who seem more vivid, from Ito to her husband who points loaded guns at people and that ex-girlfriend who seems to have escaped from a porn film. (Technically of course this is indeed a porn film, since that's the ostensible purpose of pink, but you know what I mean.)
There's a bit of bondage for those who like a kink, but otherwise this is a sober, modestly challenging film. The nudity is unremarkable. It's not full of bubbleheaded twenty-somethings. It's worthy. That's good... but I'm afraid it's also uninvolving and dreary. You could do better.