Honoo to onma (lmpasse; the title translates as the more poetic ” Flame and Woman” neatly rendered in the French title, La Femme et la Flamme) made the same year as The Affair (whose Japanese title more poetically translates as “Flame of Feeling”), concerns the inability of a woman to find satisfaction in her traditional family s tructure. The heroine, Ritsuko, is married to Shingo, a design engineer. Shingo is unable to father a child so Ritsuko is artificially inseminated. The birth of a son, Takashi, however, does not help marital relations between husband and wife. When Sakaguchi, a doctor having marital problems with his wife, Shina, is revealed as the sperm donor, Ritsuko develops a passion for the doctor. Eventually, following other complications (Shina kidnaps Takashi and she tries to seduce Shingo), Ritsuko, Shingo, and Takashi are reunited . Ritsuko’s inability to feel erotic attraction toward her husband is literalized by his sterility.This sterility is a metaphor for the modem woman’s alienation from the roles she is expected to play-dutiful wife and devoted mother. Oriko’s own mother in The Affair rejected this role in favor of erotic self-fulfillment, while Oriko herself explored erotic self-fulfillment only to opt for the role of mother. In lmpasse, Ritsuko was not satisfied to be a wife and mother, initially rejecting it in pursuit of the potent man, Sakaguchi. The ending of the film, while it may seem like an attempt at reintegration of the woman to her “proper” male-bound role of wife and mother, is actually ambiguous. Ritsuko’s self-assertion, once made, is not so easily repressed. As in Hani’s She and He, once the woman finds herself (her self) she is not likely to let it go.
(David Desser in: Eros+Massacre – An Introduction to Japanese New Wave Cinema)
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