Gentle yet powerful is this film and its female protagonist as parallels are drawn across them with poetic reference to the dandelion flower. Villon's Wife undergoes an empowerment process juxtaposed against her alcoholic novelist husband Otani who gradually circles the drain, which is greatly imposed upon us via solid acting.
Sachi (Matsu Takako) is a 26-year-old young mother of a two-year-old son and wife of novelist Otani (Asano Tadanobu) who turns alcoholic and isolates himself from his wife and within his poetry and writings. Set during the post-war period after the end of World War II, Otani enters desolation as he steals money from others while womanising in pubs and finally attempts a love-suicide with his mistress Akiko (Hirosue Ryoko). Amidst all the tragedy in her life, Sachi finds strength to continue a simple life on her own who only desired to maintain her family the way it should be.
Several stars of the Japanese pop culture craze in Singapore during the late 90's were casted in Director Negishi Kichitaro's outstanding film revolving around a strong wife of character. It is a nice sense of nostalgia hitting me as these veterans who used to be powering J-Doramas based on their youth and popularity now overwhelms the film with impressive acting. This is especially so of Matsu Takako, who has already won several acting awards.
The film opens with Otani escaping from a pub owning senior couple after he has stolen their hard-earned cash. Sachi is involved as the couple confronts her husband, leaving her the troubling burden of returning the cash that Otani has thieved. She does not have means to finance, but she resolves it in her own manner - helping out at the couple's pub as a hostage until the money is fully returned.
Never leaving her son out of her reach, she handles the chores and takes care of her son to leave a lasting impression on the couple who in turn treats her respectably well. Attempting to hand over the service tips from the drinking customers, the lady boss refuses to accept and insists that she is fully entitled to it. This happens even as Otani still owes them a rather large sum from alcoholic consumption.
Her positive perspective and attitude in life has attracted the admiration of several men, including young factory machining employee Okada (Tsumabuki Satoshi) who accompanies her home every night by train even though his residence is hardly along the way.
Otani, who was breaking down in his wife's embrace in plead of her help from his debts, suddenly turns wretched and accuses her of having an affair behind his back without shame. Obsessed with his delusions, he follows them one night and ends his confrontation of Okada with a drinking session. It is here where Okada reveals his feelings and proposes Otani to give her up to him.
Likewise, Sachi's first love, Tsuji (Tsutsumi Shinichi) who is now a lawyer, also holds lingering desire over her and attempts to rekindle their burnt out flame of passion.
It is here where we see the uprising of Sachi with more suitors chasing after her kimono while Otani falls further and further from grace as he begins to be consumed by the sense of inferiority. With a factory worker (blue collar) and a lawyer (white collar), this boosts Sachi's value as a desirable woman of virtue. Already self-elusive in his own world of pessimism, Otani's situation aggravates. Unable to accept the cold hard fact, he runs away from home and finds a mistress who is willing to die with him.
This tragic incident has indeed left a bitter taste in Sachi as we all presume that to be the last straw before she breaks down. She proves us wrong with her strong grit of determination and a simple goal of having a happy family of her husband and son by her side.
Due to the extreme dramatic depiction of their roles, the gap between Sachi and Otani is an extensive one to allow the development between them feeling strenuous and impossible to achieve. With superb directorial execution from the Best Director of the 33rd Montreal World Film Festival, this makes a great film with an engaging plot, strong characters, and directorial excellence.
Through Villon's Wife, which is based on Dazai Osamu's semi-autobiographical story, we are shown the extents of love with the things people can and will do in order to keep a loved one by one's side. The beautiful virtue present in Sachi is however, seen as a miracle that rarely survives in our modern society where loyalty and love are not as prominent as it used to be when the world was much simpler.
Akin to a dandelion, its beauty is a short-lived gem to the world while it lasts.