Shinjū: Ten no amijima (Double Suicide) (1969)

Shinjū: Ten no amijima (Double Suicide)


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Movie Info

A masterpiece of Japanese New Wave cinema, renowned filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda directs this brilliant modernist reworking of a famous 1720 bunraku (puppet theater) play written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon. Set in Osaka in the 18th century, the film centers on the doomed romance between Jihei (Kichiemon Nakamura), a down and out married paper merchant passionately in love with doe-eyed courtesan Koharu (Shima Iwashita), whom he cannot afford to buy out of servitude. Koharu herself has also fallen in … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 30, 2001
Criterion Collection



as Koharu/Osan

as Mogoemon

as Yamatoya Owner

as Gosaemon

as Osan's Mother
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Shinjū: Ten no amijima (Double Suicide)

All Critics (6) | Top Critics (2)

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

A film unlike any I've ever seen.

Full Review… | April 17, 2009
Combustible Celluloid

The amped-up line readings and actions initially feel a bit much, but they are crucial in creating the story's operatic sweep.

Full Review… | January 3, 2005

October 8, 2005

February 27, 2001
Q Network Film Desk

Audience Reviews for Shinjū: Ten no amijima (Double Suicide)


this is a mind blowing piece of surrealism. it begins in a bunraku puppet theater, transitioning to live actors, an emotionally off putting device at first. the effect is compounded by the highly stylized sets and use of ghostly kuroko, stagehands dressed entirely in black who help to advance the action while seemingly observing as helplessly as the audience. the merchant jihei's erotic obsession with a prostitute who loves him in return makes them outlaws from rigid societal norms. both his lover and long-suffering wife are played by the same actress, seemingly an archetype of woman. the scenes of the pair's final love-making in a cemetery and jihei's kuroko assisted death were very beautiful. i know it sounds pretentious and it was at first hard to adjust to but it's unlike anything i've seen before and well worth a look

Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer


From The Criterion Collection Spine Number 104. If you don't know what the Criterion Collection is you need to do a Google Search on it and check out about 400 of the best films you will see in the lifetime. if your idea of a good movie is Spiderman, Harry Potter or Ghostbusters, then the Criterion Collection IS NOT FOR YOU. In this movie a Paper Merchant who is married with children falls in love with a courtesan (Whore), and must choose between the two. By the title you can guess the ending. Its in Black & White and the Language is Chinese with English Subtitles. This is Art house stuff try it, I will warn you it takes a little to get used to but when you do your hooked to these movies. 4 1.2 Stars.

Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer


Adapted from an 18th century play, Masahiro Shinoda's "Double Suicide" is a classic tragedy. The story was originally written for a form of Japanese puppet theater called "bunraku," hence the opening credits roll over footage of such puppets being readied for performance.

The plot is initially simple but soon turns trickier. Jihei is the struggling owner of a paper shop. He has two young children with wife Osan but unfortunately has fallen in love with Koharu, a local courtesan. (Remarkably, the same actress portrays both Osan and Koharu -- between Osan's blackened teeth and Koharu's thick geisha makeup, this detail is easy to miss.)

Koharu loves Jihei too and, against all odds, the two actually have a monogamous relationship (Jihei no longer sleeps with Osan, and Koharu refuses other clients). Jihei hopes to buy Koharu's freedom but can't afford the price, and a wealthy cretin may buy her first. Meanwhile, Osan and her family naturally resent Jihei's infidelity. Will this conflict resolve happily? Re-read the film's title.

The story's pull is not so much about foolish Jihei, but about the unlikely empathy between Osan and Koharu. Koharu doesn't want Osan saddled with a husband's suicide, and Osan worries about Koharu's potential misery with the unwanted rival suitor. It's an interesting angle to emphasize, given a culture where women were strictly secondary.

Also interesting is how Shinoda stages the action. In typical New Wave fashion, "Doubie Suicide" continually reminds us of the film's false reality. The main set has oversized characters painted all over the floor (a purely stylistic move) and, more importantly, a variety of black-hooded figures lurk around the frame, serving as onscreen stagehands. They silently observe, supply props, rearrange sets and even assist in the climactic act of violence, but are never acknowledged by the main players. Spooky and fascinating.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

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