Wedding Ring – 1950

Written and Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita
Starring Jûkichi Uno, Kinuyo Tanaka, Toshirô Mifune

Wedding Ring is a finely written, dutifully acted and competently directed film. It is also entirely dreadful. Coming from a time and a culture that values honor above all, this must have been a hard film to find a real audience for in 1950. For me, and perhaps others, it’s an all to honest look at the promise of infidelity in the face of a troubling marriage.

The story starts with a meeting on a train between Dr. Ema (Mifune) and Mrs. Noriko Kuki (Tanaka). Very soon they are getting along cordially and then they discover that the Dr. is heading to the Kuki household in order to help Noriko’s husband (Uno) who is in ill health.

The Dr. and the wife begin an innocent friendship. What develops is not as innocent. The two attempt to navigate through the waters cautiously. Michio Kuki, who is already in poor spirits, begins to spiral. Then things get really bad.

The love triangle is approached believably, and as respectfully as possible. Instead of fully acting out their impulses, we are reminded through subtle (and not so…) indications, like the choice of shoewear. This shows intention, but necessarily leaves out the action. It is still so agonizing to experience.

The hardest part of the Criterion viewing experience for Wedding Ring is that the quality of the soundtrack is degraded to the point where it is an incredibly tough watch no matter the setting on one’s sound system. It is a shame, because the viewer feels the pain of the story doubly through the constant crackle and occasional high pitch. To be fair, though, they probably did the best possible job from what is available. I wonder what the story is behind the condition of the original film.

This one might be for Mifune completists. His performance is impassioned and he is countered by not one, but two good performances in Tanaka and Uno. Which for me, makes it tough to experience. For those who are looking to enjoy the development of Mifune as a lead actor, this is worth watching.

(*** out of *****)

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