The Cult of Kaze

There are good cults and bad cults and the cult of Kaze is a bit of both worlds. Not really a recognized cult, it is instead an informal club of ten women who are united in sisterhood over a common cause which they hope will result in their liberation from a certain Mr. Kaze, a handsome, successful executive in the television industry. The bad part of their mutual solidarity is that the women want Kaze to die and they aim to kill him. Why? Because nine of the women have had affairs with and been discarded by this man and the tenth woman, Futaba Kaze, is his wife and has suffered from his serial unfaithfulness for years. As you would expect from this set-up, Kuroi jûnin no onna (The English title translates as Ten Dark Women or Ten Women in Black), directed by Kon Ichikawa in 1961, is a feminist revenge film but it is also so much more than that.

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Balm for the Soul

The Japanese poster for The Burmese Harp (1956)

In 1955 Kon Ichikawa was a well established filmmaker in Japan who was mostly known for satiric comedies like Mr. Pu (1953) and A Billionaire (1954) and the occasional literary adaptation like Young People (1952). His work was still unknown outside of his own country but that would change with his 27th film, The Burmese Harp (Japanese title: Biruma no tategoto, 1956). It would prove to be his first major critical and box office success in Japan but also one that would bring him international acclaim. “That was the first film I really felt I had to make,” Ichikawa later admitted to author and film scholar Donald Richie.   Continue reading