Monday, December 1, 2014

Mermaid Legend (1984)

This revenge thriller caught me off-guard. Sometimes, you expect to watch a decent film, then you get one that's quite good, maybe even great. 

This one opens with a husband and wife who make a living off pearl diving. 
It was very common in East Asia for women to be the sole gender responsible for pearl diving (and most other kinds of diving, in general), so the wife dons the deep sea gear, while the husband steers the boat and reels in her lifeline. 

Early on, while on a pearl hunt, the husband is murdered, and the assailants make an attempt at the wife too. After making it to shore safely, the wife (Migiwa) seeks out help, but everyone, including the police, seem to infer immediately that she must have murdered her husband. 

Trusting no one, she seeks out her husband's friend, the son of a local businessman, but even he seems unwilling to help, and asks her if she is responsible. 

The story unfolds into a political cover-up, as her husband witnessed some murders earlier that are connected to business monopolies operating in the area and their yakuza contacts.

What starts with distrust and confusion ends in a brutal, yet satisfying "kill them all" scene, when the wife discovers the culprits, and takes them all out with a fishing spear. Maybe two dozen or more men are impaled at a business banquet. Seeing salarymen meet their demise in this exaggerated fashion was even more satisfying than the many revenge killings of Mifune in Kurosawa's slightly less violent, though theatrical 'The Bad Sleep Well'.

I recommend this for fans of J-cinema, or someone looking for a film with political depth to write about, talk about, watch.

directed by Toshiharu Ikeda
starring Mari Shirato