Japanese filmmaker Imamura is back with another offbeat, creepy romance that gets under our skin even if it never really grabs hold. Sasano (Yakusho) is a 40ish businessman, recently unemployed and separated from his wife and son. He befriends a colorful old man (Kitramura) who tells him about a valuable heirloom hidden in a house by a red bridge. And when the old guy dies, Sasano decides to go get it. But instead of a treasure, he finds a strange young woman Misa (Shimizu) and starts a romance, then lands a job on a fishing boat. But something extraordinary is happening here.
There are more than a few twists in the tale, and it’s almost impossible to describe the sense of fatalism and destiny that fills the film. There are colorful characters all around the story’s edges, and at the centre Yakusho and Shimizu give intriguing performances that blend drama with quirky comedy to draw us into this bizarre fable. Imamura directs in the same enigmatic style as “The Eel”–little hints and details that imply a lot but never give away much at all. There’s also this obsession with water in all its forms–the sea, rivers, rain, snow and, of course, Misa’s odd little “problem.” Not to mention a lot of wacky dialog, symbolism and energetic emotional release to keep us intrigued. Yet the overwhelming strangeness keeps us effectively outside the action–we never feel anything for these characters, and as a result the film is basically just a curiosity.