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6 Degrees Entertainment

Irezumi (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
(Fujio Suga, Gaku Yamamoto, Ayako Wakao, Akio Hasegawa, Reiko Fujiwara, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1966) 2021 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Drawn from the pen of one of Japans foremost writers of the 20th century, Junichiro Tanizaki (A Fools Love, The Makioka Sisters), Irezumi is a stylish tale of lust, betrayal and revenge directed by Yasuzo Masumura (Giants and Toys, Blind Beast).

Masumuras muse Ayako Wakao (The Blue Sky Maiden, Red Angel) stars as Otsuya, the daughter of a rich merchant, who is tempted by her lover, Shinsuke, a lowly employee of her fathers, to elope.

During their flight, Otsuyas beauty attracts the gaze of Seikichi, a mysterious master tattooist who sees her pristine white skin as the perfect canvas for his art.

The image of the large demonic spider that he emblazons across Otsuyas back marks her as the property of another man, radically altering her relationships with all around her as her personality transforms under its influence.

Blu-ray Verdict: Available for the first time outside of Japan in a new 4K restoration, Irezumi sports some of Japanese cinemas most respected talent of its day both in front of and behind the camera.

The bewitching cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa (Rashomon, Ugetsu) captures the sensual atmosphere of the period setting, while the script by Kaneto Shindo (Onibaba, Kuroneko) lends a modern twist to this feverish meditation on obsession and the act of creation.

Indeed a rather wonderful film based on a novel by Juinichiro Tanizaki, directed by one of the bad boys of 60s Japanese cinema Yasuzo Masumura and starring a brilliantly beautiful Ayako Wakao, Irezumi begins with the aforementioned lady by the name of Otsuya (Wakao) trying to convince a young man named Shinsuke (Akio Hasegawa) to quit his job working for her father so that the two of them can elope together and eventually get married.

Although Shinsuke has grave concerns about leaving a good job and a boss who has been quite generous with him, he is easily seduced by Otsuyas charms and goes along with her in spite of it all. Having also stolen some money from her father, Otsuya and Shinsuke stay at an inn run by a man named Kenji (Fujio Suga) who is a business associate of the family.

What neither of them know, however, is that Kenji has a hidden motive for allowing her stay to at the inn which soon comes to fruition when she is kidnapped and sold to a brothel in another city. But what Kenji does not quite fathom is that Otsuya is much more devious and resilient than anybody could ever conceive and that she is now determined to have her revenge on everybody involved with her abduction.

Now rather than reveal any more I will just say that this was an extremely good film which was not only artistic in one sense, but also had the advantage of featuring an incredibly talented actress like Ayako Wakao who dominated every scene she was in with her beauty and charm.

And although there is quite a bit of sexual eroticism inherent within the plot, director Masumura uses a subtle technique which both stimulates the imagination and enhances the imagery. That being said, I thought that this was an excellent film and I would highly recommend it to anyone even the slightest bit interested. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a new 4K scan
Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio
Optional English subtitles
Brand new audio commentary by Japanese cinema scholar David Desser
Newly filmed introduction by Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns
Out of the Darkness, a brand new visual essay by Asian cinema scholar Daisuke Miyao
Original Trailer
Image Gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors booklet featuring new writing by Thomas Lamarre and Daisuke Miyao