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Review: Jokyo

Caught a screening of Jokyo. Metrograph is showing this omnibus film as part of an ongoing Machiko Kyo retrospective, but all three of its segments (which feature creative contributions from such industry legends as director Kon Ichikawa and cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa) are worth the price of admission, painting compelling portraits of women struggling to survive in the capitalist nightmare that is postwar Japan, where sex is just another form of currency and marrying rich is often the only viable way to socially advance. Although the actions of these bitter, deceitful, avaricious femmes fatales initially appear to be cruel and callous on the surface, it quickly becomes clear that they are merely manipulating a system that constantly exploits and marginalizes them—since society places so much value on their bodies, they might as well use their… “assets” to their advantage, conning and humiliating the gullible men that overlook or underestimate them.

Jokyo also provides an absolutely fascinating glimpse into that brief period of time when Western culture was only just beginning to creep eastward: several scenes unfold in the smoky back rooms of seedy jazz clubs, and one character marvels at encountering her first porcelain toilet. These little details demonstrate the sort of historical specificity that lends a setting flavor, proving once again that “dating” your story isn’t always necessarily a bad thing (see also: Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy, City Lights).

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