Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Ten Women in Black (Kon Ichikawa, 1961)

A television producer has a wife and nine mistresses and makes room for a tenth. Exasperated at his philandering ways, they all conspire to kill him and even the man himself gets in on it in a desperate disappearance scheme. The précis alone for Ten Women in Black (or Ten Dark Women as IMDb has it) is outrageous enough to make a weak film lover like me succumb. But Ichikawa uses it to launch a satirical critique of an overamped society addicted to work and inundated with television. Television screens, television boxes, television technology, a mise-en-scène cramped with television television television, outrageous enough to make a weak television agnostic like me succumb. And note - the film was released the same year Newton Minow made his famous "vast wasteland" speech "Television and the Public Interest."


 It's a world where headphones command just as much visual real estate as people...

...and the most cluttered nook can provide narrative information. 
Even a lone book falling in a messy office speaks with as much significance as any of the characters.
It might get all a bit hippieish (or proto-hippieish?) as in this nevertheless remarkable shot of a nature that remains inaccessible to the goal-oriented principals.
But other compensations include a Hawksian code of honor between the women who care for one another after a fight,
 a ghost who shares the same frame, ineffectually, with the living,
and a literally incendiary ending.

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