The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka

Hanaoka Seishu no tsuma

dir. Yasuzo Masumura

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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The wife (Ayako Wakao) and mother (Hideko Takamine) of a nineteenth-century physician battle for his love in this extraordinary drama from the perennially underrated Yasuzo Masumura.
Yasuzo Masumura assembled one of his strongest casts for this extraordinary drama set in the late Edo period, which tells the disturbing story of a physician who conducted the first operation with general anaesthetic. As the title suggests, rather than focusing on the doctor's medical trials and triumphs Masumura characteristically turns his attention to the women in his life, his wife (axiomatic Ayako Wakao) and mother (venerable Hideko Takamine), both of whom are so determined to win his love that they volunteer as subjects for his experiments. Masumura's formal control is at its pinnacle here: the period detail, the concentrated force of his acting ensemble, and the beauty of his compositions (snowy white flowers in full bloom, a mirror that focuses the rivalry of the two women) assure The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka its status as one of the major works of Masumura's late phase.