Irezumi (1966)

Based on Junichiro Tanizaki’s story Shisei (The Tattooist), Yasuzô Masumura’s (Black Test Car) tells the story of Otsuya and Shinsuke. She’s the daughter of a rich merchant who is tempted by her father’s employee to elope before they’re caught by an inn keeper.

Now sold into prostitution, she’s given a tattoo by Seikichi, a master artist, of a human-faced spider. Her pale skin has created the perfect canvas for him, but now she’s been marked as the property of another man. As she and Shinsuke seek to escape their lives, all manner of horror follows, with the face of the spider changing — and Otsuya herself — with each act and each man who comes her way must pay.

Masumura and his muse Ayako Wakao, who plays Otsuya, made several films together, yet this film is the first of theirs I’ve seen. It’s a woman getting revenge feature. Yet while the film makes you wonder at first if it’s the tattoo or the woman doing all of the murder, by the end, the answer becomes clear. 

The new Arrow Video release of this film comes with a new 4K scan of the film, new audio commentary by Japanese cinema scholar David Desser, an introduction by Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns, a visual essay by Asian cinema scholar Daisuke Miyao and a trailer. You can get it directly from Arrow Video.

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