Odd Obsession


1h 36m 1959
Odd Obsession

Brief Synopsis

An aging antique dealer copes with impotence by offering his younger wife to his daughter's boyfriend.

Film Details

Also Known As
Kagi
Genre
Drama
Foreign
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1959
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 12 May 1961
Production Company
Daiei Motion Picture Co.
Distribution Company
Harrison Pictures
Country
Japan
Location
Japan
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Kagi by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki (Tokyo, 1957).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Perturbed by his failing virility, Mr. Kenmochi, an elderly Japanese art critic and antiquarian with a young and beautiful wife, secretly takes injections to rejuvenate himself. When this treatment becomes no longer feasible, he chooses another method, jealousy. By encouraging a handsome young intern, Kimura, to show interest in his wife, Kenmochi discovers that his own aroused jealousy succeeds where the injections had failed. One night, his wife, Ikuko, faints in her bath after drinking too much brandy, and Kenmochi insists that the young doctor examine her naked body. Furthermore, the old man begins taking nude photographs of Ikuko, forcing Kimura to develop them in his hospital laboratory. Such incidents finally lead Ikuko and Kimura into a passionate affair, much to the disgust of Kenmochi's homely daughter, Toshiko, who has hoped to win Kimura for herself. The old man now suffers a stroke while in bed with Ikuko, and this situation allows her to nurse Kenmochi by day and make love to Kimura at night. When Toshiko sees Kimura letting himself into the house, Ikuko removes her clothing in Kenmochi's presence and thereby causes him to have a second--and fatal--attack. Ikuko suggests that Kimura marry Toshiko and that the three of them live together. But Kimura, upon learning that Kenmochi died penniless, has lost interest in both mother and daughter. In any event, at an evening meal all three are poisoned by the old servant, Hana, who has despised them for their selfishness. The police find Ikuko's diary and refuse to believe Hana's confession, certain that out of grief over Kenmochi's death, the three had committed suicide.

Film Details

Also Known As
Kagi
Genre
Drama
Foreign
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1959
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 12 May 1961
Production Company
Daiei Motion Picture Co.
Distribution Company
Harrison Pictures
Country
Japan
Location
Japan
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Kagi by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki (Tokyo, 1957).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Odd Obsession


The remarkably prolific Japanese director Kon Ichikawa made 86 films in almost every genre, from intimate family dramas to large-scale epics to documentaries, reaching his peak of productivity in the 1950s and most frequently collaborating with his screenwriter wife Natto Wada. But few of Ichikawa's films are as difficult to categorize as Odd Obsession (1959), which is at once the blackest of black comedies, a taut family drama, and a thriller, all of it sexually provocative, tragic, mysterious, and discreetly subversive.

Based on a controversial novel by Junichiro Tanizaki, Odd Obsession (released in Japan as Kagi, the novel's title, which translates as "The Key") explores the efforts of an aging family man to overcome his problem with impotence. He gets injections to restore his virility, but when they fail to work he finds that he can be aroused by jealousy. So he maneuvers his young wife into an affair with the doctor who is treating him and spies on the couple having sex, to the distress of his daughter, who hopes to marry the doctor. Meanwhile, the family servant has been observing the household's sexual games with dismay and disapproval.

The emotional undercurrents of the story and the amorality of the characters are played against the elegant formality of director Kon Ichikawa's and cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa's widescreen compositions, their serenity a stark contrast to the darkness beneath the surface. For a story so suffused with sex, however, Odd Obsession is never explicitly sexual, in accordance with the standards of the era, even as those standards were breaking down. Ichikawa recalled that for Odd Obsession he took as his model French director Louis Malle's film The Lovers (1958). "The most conceptual films are the most sensual," Ichikawa wrote, as opposed to the more traditional "story-based principle of organization...Instead of following a storyline...they present what is essentially a mental landscape."

The cast of Odd Obsession includes one of Japan's top leading ladies of the 1950s, Machiko Kyo, who plays the wife. She played leading roles in films by Japan's top directors such as Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950) and Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari (1953), and had even starred opposite Marlon Brando in the 1956 American film, The Teahouse of the August Moon. Playing the young doctor in Odd Obsession is Tatsuya Nakadai, who went on to become a major star, in one of his early film appearances. Nakadai's long and distinguished career includes multiple films with directors such as Kurosawa, Toshiaki Kobayashi and Mikio Naruse, as well as Ichikawa. Writing about Odd Obsession, American critic Pauline Kael called Ichikawa "probably the most important new young Japanese director" and described the film as "a beautifully stylized and highly original piece of filmmaking--perverse in the best sense of the word, and worked out with such finesse that each turn of the screw tightens the whole comic structure."

Odd Obsession earned a Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for "the audacity of its subject matter," and was one of five international films honored at the 1960 Golden Globe Awards with the "Samuel Golden International Award," the precursor to the Globes' current best foreign film designation.

Director: Kon Ichikawa
Producer: Hiroaki Fujii
Screenplay: Natto Wada, Keijii Hasebe, Kon Ichikawa, based on the novel by Junichiro Tanizaki
Cinematography: Kazuo Miyagawa
Editor: Tatsuji Nakashizu, Kon Ichikawa
Art Direction: Tomoo Shimogawara
Music: Yasushi Akutagawa
Principal Cast: Machiko Kyo (Ikuko Kenmochi), Ganjiro Nakamura (Mr. Kenmochi), Junko Kano (Toshiko Kenmochi), Tatsuya Nakadai (Kimura), Tanie Kitabayashi (Hana)
96 minutes

by Margarita Landazuri
Odd Obsession

Odd Obsession

The remarkably prolific Japanese director Kon Ichikawa made 86 films in almost every genre, from intimate family dramas to large-scale epics to documentaries, reaching his peak of productivity in the 1950s and most frequently collaborating with his screenwriter wife Natto Wada. But few of Ichikawa's films are as difficult to categorize as Odd Obsession (1959), which is at once the blackest of black comedies, a taut family drama, and a thriller, all of it sexually provocative, tragic, mysterious, and discreetly subversive. Based on a controversial novel by Junichiro Tanizaki, Odd Obsession (released in Japan as Kagi, the novel's title, which translates as "The Key") explores the efforts of an aging family man to overcome his problem with impotence. He gets injections to restore his virility, but when they fail to work he finds that he can be aroused by jealousy. So he maneuvers his young wife into an affair with the doctor who is treating him and spies on the couple having sex, to the distress of his daughter, who hopes to marry the doctor. Meanwhile, the family servant has been observing the household's sexual games with dismay and disapproval. The emotional undercurrents of the story and the amorality of the characters are played against the elegant formality of director Kon Ichikawa's and cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa's widescreen compositions, their serenity a stark contrast to the darkness beneath the surface. For a story so suffused with sex, however, Odd Obsession is never explicitly sexual, in accordance with the standards of the era, even as those standards were breaking down. Ichikawa recalled that for Odd Obsession he took as his model French director Louis Malle's film The Lovers (1958). "The most conceptual films are the most sensual," Ichikawa wrote, as opposed to the more traditional "story-based principle of organization...Instead of following a storyline...they present what is essentially a mental landscape." The cast of Odd Obsession includes one of Japan's top leading ladies of the 1950s, Machiko Kyo, who plays the wife. She played leading roles in films by Japan's top directors such as Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950) and Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari (1953), and had even starred opposite Marlon Brando in the 1956 American film, The Teahouse of the August Moon. Playing the young doctor in Odd Obsession is Tatsuya Nakadai, who went on to become a major star, in one of his early film appearances. Nakadai's long and distinguished career includes multiple films with directors such as Kurosawa, Toshiaki Kobayashi and Mikio Naruse, as well as Ichikawa.

Kon Ichikawa (1915-2008)


Kon Ichikawa, the acclaimed Japanese director whose best work such as The Burmese Harp, Ototo and the documentary Tokyo Olympiad earned him international awards and further elevated the strength of post war Japanese cinema, died on February 13 in Tokyo of pneumonia. He was 92.

He was born on November 25, 1915, in Ise, Japan. Ichikawa built on a long standing fascination with art and animation when, after formal schooling, he moved to Kyoto to work at the animation department of J.O. Studios. Working his way up the studio ladder, he eventually made his first film, a 20 minute short called A Girl at Dojo Temple (1946) using a cast of puppets.

He spent the next few years working on small, but well-received features such as Endless Passion (1949), Stolen Love (1951) and Mr. Poo (1953) before scoring a breakout hit with his moving, sweeping epic The Burmese Harp (1956). The film, about a Japanese soldier (Shoji Yasui) who becomes a Buddhist monk and devotes himself to burying his dead comrades, was acclaimed for its strong humanity and meditative tone. It won the San Giorgio Prize at the Venice Film Festival and put Ichikawa on the map as a major talent.

Ichikawa would continue his solid streak throughout the '60s: the devastating, often horrific war drama Fires on the Plains (1959), the moving family drama Ototo (1960); a fascinating look at Japanese male virility in Kagi (1960, a Golden Globe and Cannes Festival winner); the strong social document The Outcast (1962); the gender bending An Actor's Revenge (1963); and his stunning observations of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics for Tokyo Olympiad (1965) which won a BAFTA winner for Best Documentary.

Although he would never quite scale the same artistic heights of the '50s and '60s, Ichikawa, ever the consummate filmmaker, would continue to have domestic hits in his native Japan in a variety of molds: social satire I Am A Cat (1975); the pulsating period piece The Firebird (1979); the sentimental, but beautifully photographed domestic drama, The Makioka Sisters (1983); and arguably, his last great film, the samurai epic 47 Ronin (1994).

Ichikawa was still directing theatrical and television movies well into his 80s and never officially retired. His last film was The Inugamis (2006). He was married to screenwriter Natto Wada from 1948 until her death in 1983. He is survived by two sons.

by Michael T. Toole

Kon Ichikawa (1915-2008)

Kon Ichikawa, the acclaimed Japanese director whose best work such as The Burmese Harp, Ototo and the documentary Tokyo Olympiad earned him international awards and further elevated the strength of post war Japanese cinema, died on February 13 in Tokyo of pneumonia. He was 92. He was born on November 25, 1915, in Ise, Japan. Ichikawa built on a long standing fascination with art and animation when, after formal schooling, he moved to Kyoto to work at the animation department of J.O. Studios. Working his way up the studio ladder, he eventually made his first film, a 20 minute short called A Girl at Dojo Temple (1946) using a cast of puppets. He spent the next few years working on small, but well-received features such as Endless Passion (1949), Stolen Love (1951) and Mr. Poo (1953) before scoring a breakout hit with his moving, sweeping epic The Burmese Harp (1956). The film, about a Japanese soldier (Shoji Yasui) who becomes a Buddhist monk and devotes himself to burying his dead comrades, was acclaimed for its strong humanity and meditative tone. It won the San Giorgio Prize at the Venice Film Festival and put Ichikawa on the map as a major talent. Ichikawa would continue his solid streak throughout the '60s: the devastating, often horrific war drama Fires on the Plains (1959), the moving family drama Ototo (1960); a fascinating look at Japanese male virility in Kagi (1960, a Golden Globe and Cannes Festival winner); the strong social document The Outcast (1962); the gender bending An Actor's Revenge (1963); and his stunning observations of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics for Tokyo Olympiad (1965) which won a BAFTA winner for Best Documentary. Although he would never quite scale the same artistic heights of the '50s and '60s, Ichikawa, ever the consummate filmmaker, would continue to have domestic hits in his native Japan in a variety of molds: social satire I Am A Cat (1975); the pulsating period piece The Firebird (1979); the sentimental, but beautifully photographed domestic drama, The Makioka Sisters (1983); and arguably, his last great film, the samurai epic 47 Ronin (1994). Ichikawa was still directing theatrical and television movies well into his 80s and never officially retired. His last film was The Inugamis (2006). He was married to screenwriter Natto Wada from 1948 until her death in 1983. He is survived by two sons. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Released in Japan in June 1959 as Kagi; running time: 107 min.

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of a Special Jury Prize at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1959

Released in United States 1961

Daieiscope

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1959

Released in United States 1961