Double Suicide

(Shinju ten no Amijima)

BAMPFA Collection


Kichiemon Nakamura, Shima Iwashita, Hosei Komatsu, Yusuke Takita,

Masahiro Shinoda’s first film for Japan’s avant-garde Art Theatre Guild, Double Suicide strikingly reinterprets Monzaemon Chikamatsu’s famed 1720 bunraku puppet play involving the doomed love between a married paper-shop owner and a courtesan; here, it’s not just the play that is presented, but the entire presentation of the play. We begin with the kurogo (men dressed in black who traditionally maneuver the puppets) assembling the stage; soon, however, live actors replace the puppets, though they too are controlled by the kurogo. Toru Takemitsu’s jarring score heightens the film’s Brechtian, abstract distancing of “story” and “telling,” as does the minimal set design by Kiyoshi Awazu; by the end, only the kurogo’s anguish remains. “Double Suicide extends Chikamatsu’s concerns to include ethics versus eroticism,” wrote Albert Johnson, “a thralldom timelessly enacted behind the mystery of empty streets and houses, beyond the anonymity of human crowds.”

Jason Sanders
  • Masahiro Shinoda
  • Taeko Tomioka
  • Toru Takemitsu
Based On
  • a puppet play by Monzaemon Chikamatsu

  • Toichiro Narushima
  • Japanese
  • with English subtitles
Print Info
  • B&W
  • 35mm
  • 100 mins
  • Janus Films