Wife of a Spy

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A top military official, a silk merchant (Issey Takahashi), and his titular bride, all childhood friends, stop short of forming a romantic triangle in the latest from Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Pulse, Cure, Tokyo Sonata). It's being pitched as an “old-school Hitchcockian thriller.” The Master has been dead over 40 years. It's time to lose the training wheels. Were it a film noir, the two historied chums would reunite in darkness, physically separated by shafts of shadows. But Takahashi universe is one of sunny orderliness, and it’s the glary gauze of light filtering through the Venetian blinds that keeps them apart. Kurosawa’s choice of a “film blanc” approach is called into play with enough regularity to maintain a high level of graphic interest. The director knows how to tangibly bring his characters together; it’s the spark of excitement between leads that he can’t quite ignite. Kurosawa’s ornery depraved origins won’t be overlooked. The declawing of a bad guy is tastefully depicted. Even the film’s weightiest dramatic reveal — Takahashi witnessing the mass burning of plague victims’ corpses — is delivered in a lengthy monologue, the kind that clears things up for character and viewer alike. Throughout the film, the husband questions his wife's laying claim to the title. Takahashi’s allegiance is not to his country, but to universal justice. Kurosawa’s overall commitment to innovation seems parched. It’s a lovely enough ride, particularly Kurosawa’s emboldened use of exterior light, but when it comes right down to storytelling, not much is illuminated. (2020) — Scott Marks

Rated NR | 1 hour, 55 minutes
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