|Sada: Gesaku · Abe Sada no shôgai 1998 Japan Sada|
The first things you'll notice about the film are the narrative and filmic techniques used by Obayashi. Characters break the Fourth Wall; there's a mix of black & white and color photography which is interesting and useful some times and random at others; some jump-cut editing use is mostly abandoned after the first act; the costuming, both traditional and modern, is gorgeous; there's a fabulous stop-motion sequence in the middle that starts with Sada reading a book while her lover sits near her having a snack, they do the hanky-panky and then resume their initial activities, and there are several moments of Keystone Kops style comedy. After that you should find it to be a fascinating character study of a strong and intelligent woman.
Hitomi Kuroki is amazing as Sada. Her characterization remains a constant as she effortlessly transitions through the varied styles of presentation Obayashi employs. She is always elegant, beautiful, sensuous, and in control. She is also very genuine, which comes off as quite sexy. (For the curious, there is zero nudity in this version of the story, not even a glimpse of Sada's notoriously cute butt. The closest we get, in a brilliant directorial move, is an odd-angled, extreme close-up of her fully kimonoed posterior. There are lots of bare shoulders and legs and several sex scenes but they are mostly played either artfully or comically.)
Sada may serve it's nominal content respectfully and respectably but it comes off so much more as a film than a biography that if it's approached with an educational curiosity its style may frustrate. Watch it for the whimsical stylings of the director and the lovely and remarkable performance of Hitomi Kuroki.
Summary: Based upon the case of Sada Abe, who on May 17 1936 killed and emasculated her lover. These events took place during a period of war, economic depression, public unease and growing militarism, a time of unrest and confusion when public opinion was, at best, unpredictable. Sada, condemned by the law, found herself lionized by the press and hailed as a 'saint' of love. Because she committed murder out of passion, the purity of her motivation elevated her from the status of criminal to that of popular heroine.