Yumeji (1991)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews


A brilliantly-colored fever dream put to film, YUMEJI follows the fantasy exploits of real-life artist Yumeji Takehisa, famous for his watercolor portraits, and his battle with a “Mr. Hyde”-like doppleganger of an imagination.

As he fumbles his way through various mysterious, amorous, and dangerous encounters, Yumeji wrestles with the imbalanced forces that make up his own psyche: the struggle finds its way into his art. Popular singer-turned actor Kenji Sawada plays Yumeji to perfection.

The conclusion to the Taisho Trilogy, “Yumeji” gained a second life today when Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai (himself clearly a student of the Suzuki style) borrowed Yumeji’s haunting theme music for his own masterpiece, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE.

*Scenes from Yumeji
© Littlemore2 Productions

yumeji1The film is filled with beautiful and surprising visuals, as well as a really great and beautiful musical score, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s best explained as a kind of fever dream, and imagining of what could have but probably didn’t happen during real-life watercolorist Yumeji Takehisa’s months spent in the country prefecture of Kanagawa during the Taisho period. Yumeji gravitates from one woman to another, pursuing his ideal of feminine beauty. He wins the hearts of many women in struggles that are often fierce and violent, but he ends up with none of them. The movie meanders along with Yumeji. It has moments of humor, moments of just searing beauty, and brilliant montages of images. But the slow pacing and deliberate avoidance of film convention makes this film hard to pursue through its end. It is a rewarding pursuit, however: not so much of the film hangs together, but it is a sensory feast all the way through the final frame.

This is the third film in Seijun Suzuki’s so-called “Taisho Trilogy,” following Zigeunerweizen and Mirage Theater. However, it’s best not to approach these films as a trilogy, as Suzuki himself has revealed that it was never intended to be so. Definitely do not try to watch all three of these trancelike film-dreams in one sitting.

Director: Seijun Suzuki
Script: Yohzoh Tanaka
Producer: Genjiro Arato
Art Director: Noriyoshi Ikeya

Kenji Sawada
Tamasaburo Bando
Michiyo Ookusu
Kazuhiko Hasegawa.

Country: Japan

Language: Japanese
Running Time: 128 min

MidnightEye Suzuki Interview

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