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The Sea Is Watching (2003)

Misa Shimizu , Nagiko Tôno , Kei Kumai  |  R |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Misa Shimizu, Nagiko Tôno, Masatoshi Nagase, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Miho Tsumiki
  • Directors: Kei Kumai
  • Writers: Kei Kumai, Akira Kurosawa, Shûgorô Yamamoto
  • Producers: Hajime Satomi, Haruyuki Machida, Hirotake Yoda, Hisao Kurosawa
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Georgian, Chinese, Thai
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: November 18, 2003
  • Run Time: 119 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000CGNEG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,576 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Sea Is Watching" on IMDb

Special Features

  • In Japanese with optional subtitles

Editorial Reviews

To film lovers around the world, The Sea Is Watching is a welcome parting gift from Akira Kurosawa, who wrote the screenplay based on two short stories by one of his favorite authors, Syugoro Yamamoto, but was unable to make the film prior to his death in 1998. Kurosawa left detailed storyboards and production notes, entrusting veteran director Kei Kumai to bring his vision to the screen. The results are both glorious and rather mild, by Kurosawa standards, but this gentle melodrama about love, loss, and survival retains much of the peaceful optimism that informed Kurosawa's final films. Set in the 19th century Edo period, the story focuses on the prostitutes of a seaside village brothel, where the vulnerable geisha O-Shin (Nagiko Tohno) endures one heartbreaking love and a potential second, while the more cynical Kikuno (Misa Shimizu) combats misery with harmless fantasies that bolster her spirits. Nature plays a role, and a climactic typhoon has a cleansing effect, offering hope in the wake of destruction, as if the sea had been watching all along. And like the sea itself, Kurosawa's spirit washes over this beautiful film, compromised only by music that's more sentimental than Kurosawa would have allowed. -- Jeff Shannon

Product Description

Set in a 19th-century brothel, THE SEA IS WATCHING is the story of a beautiful young geisha, O-Shin(Nagiko Tohno), who harbors a samurai (Rhapsody in August's Hidetaka Yoshioka) seeking refuge. Falling in love with O-Shin, the samurai hopes to cleanse her of the sins of her profession. But fate and fortune conspire to keep the lovers apart. When another young man (Masatoshi Nagase, Mystery Train) appears, a thunderous storm strikes their village. What, if anything, will survive nature's fury? This stunning epic was the final film written by legendary director Akira Kurosawa (The Seven Samurai, Ran). Hand-picked by Kurosawa's son, director Kei Kumai delivers a visually striking love story for the ages.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How the sea watches, destroys, and purifies July 4, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
As seen in Umi Wa Miteiru, life for prostitutes in Japanese brothels towards the end of the Tokugawa period was rough. Women there have fallen in status or have the bad luck of being unable to support themselves any other way. Wearing brightly-coloured kimonos and lots of makeup, they drum up business by soliciting prospective customers on the street. And the mission statement of prostitutes is cheekily given at one point by two of them: give the customers a good time and never get involved. If they fall in love, you don't. And make sure you get paid.
Falling in love-that's the trouble with O-shin. She has a good heart, but keeps giving it away, as someone observes, and she keeps getting involved with customers. One is a young samurai named Fusanosuke Ihara, for whom she covers up when he flees after drawing his sword and wounding a man. Following the rules of the house, she forbids him to come to her, and even has Kikuno, one of the senior girls lie to the samurai. However, she's in love, though disheartened by the caste difference between them. He tells her how there's always change, and despite her body being soiled, she could be pure again if she stopped. The other girls band together to help her achieve this life, by taking on her customers and giving her the money so she can get married and be respectable, but disappointment is ahead.
Kikuno herself has two very different customers. One is a kindly older man who asks her to live with him. A friend of the madam, he always visits, bringing sweets to share with the other women. The other is a yakuza-type who sponges off her, and is pretty rough with her. Kikuno though, prides herself on her samurai background, something that at one point arouses the envy of O-kichi, one of the other girls.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent film by a lesser master. November 26, 2003
The Sea is Watching may never have been filmed by its author, the
late great master of Japanese Cinema Akira Kurosawa, but it fits very, VERY, nicely in a collection of his other films. Kurosawa's films mostly featured men and their world, particularly his early muscular films like Seven Samurai. I think he wrote this film after reflecting on this point. So seldom does the focus of the galaxy of samurai films remain on the jilted-lover, the poor woman left behind. Not only does this film do that, it focuses on the dregs of society - prostitutes. Yet the world of the prositiutes is not stark. It is rich and colorful. Here it is nice to see state-of-the-art production values brought to a Kurosawa story: we can watch one of his stories in crisp color. The basic story line is a theme universal in Kurosawa's films: the struggle for human dignity in an unforgiving world. Nature is also personified and plays a role in the drama - a recurring theme throughout Kurosawa's work.
The movie centers around a young geisha named O-Shin who seems destined for a higher life but is constantly ground into the dirt. Just as she thinks the worst has come, nature plays its part. The sea that watches the prostitures "water trade" and fleeting lives, fittingly has the last say. Director Kei Kumai may not possess Kurosawa's cinematic flair nor feverish genius.
But he does turn in a handsome film worthy to be included in Kurosawa's legacy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of hope and sorrow, beautifully told.... February 21, 2004
I am not a vetran to subbed films, I however, found this film particularly refreshing compared to some of the trash they insist to put in american movies. The script (from what i could tell according the the subtitles) was intelligent and meaningful. Along with the two refreshing love stories, i found the scenes of the ocean and fields very picturesque.
The Romance element was sweet. This film very accuratly depicted the risks one takes in the development of a relationship. The story with the young samurai was tragic, and in many ways realistic. For in the end, the castes, and misinterperated intentions, occur in many ways. The case of the misfortunate man, was equally moving and logical. But beyond this, was the devotion the girls in the teahouse had for each other.
I found some of the scenes (like the milky way scene) too unbelieveable,but only suceeeded to make it more charming. So i deducted the star for lagging on abit where it could have cut some useless scenes. (but who am i to critcize, i cant even spell)
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful January 3, 2004
This is the story of a year in the life of a small house of prostitution in Edo's "Floating World" (entertainment district), particularly of the manager Miss (second in command, who takes over when the owner "Missus" dies), and of one of the 'girls' O-Shin who, as one character comments, "has a good heart; she just shouldn't keep giving it away."
The film begins with the bright side of the district and their life, its gaiety, camaraderie and even tranquility. The setting and story are so delightful and cheerful that after a few minutes I was inspired to pause the DVD and go fix a cup of steaming ko-kei cha and a plate of tea biscuits. A young samurai, fleeing the law after a fight, begs to stay the night. They hide him, disguising him as a commoner customer of O-Shin's. After a chaste night, he leaves with gratitude and we can see on her face that she is taken with him. Miss cautions her against falling in love, and when he comes to see her O-Shin sends him away, saying never return, believing he is forever beyond reach. He is in exile from his father's house, and must go in disguise, yet he keeps returning as the seasons turn, being turned away. One day, though, O-Shin runs after him, meeting on a wintry bridge. The others debate her wisdom, but becoming convinced of his devotion, and particularly when in the spring he earnestly explains she can lose her 'fallen woman' status by remaining 'pure' for some time, they offer to take on her customers yet share the proceeds. Everyone expects something to come of this, and they are involved and hopeful, seeing hope for themselvers if only by proxy. Some reluctantly, some eagerly, they come to believe the fairy tale will really happen.
Needless to say it does not work out (that shouldn't be a spoiler ..
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Flower (prostitute) vs. Willow (geisha iki chic) world
Like James Clavell's Shogun, Memoirs of a Geisha (Two-Disc Widescreen Edition), My Geisha, The Secret World of Geishas Discovery Channel The Sea is Watching clarifies the... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sakuteiki
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie
I ordered this movie and within 5 days I got it. I love this movie. I have a collection of Asian movies and this one I
will watch again. Thank you for your prompt service. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Elizabeth
4.0 out of 5 stars A rose by any other name...Amazon botches the Title
This is a very good movie. It is about a low land village of easy pleasure and the folks who inhabit and visit it. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Tom Sanders
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT MOVIE
After watching 100's of Asiasn films, this is in the top 1% along with Woman Ascends the Stairs (Japan) and Chocolate (Thailand). Story in Edo time as set in a brothel. Read more
Published on July 18, 2011 by Indiandaeng
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Lyrical Film About Unlikely Heroes...
Written by Akira Kurosawa complete with production notes regarding its culture, society and detail in 1993, director Kei Kumai adapts his screenplay in 2002 for "The Sea is... Read more
Published on August 16, 2009 by Woopak
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical portrayal of life in feudal Japan
The acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa wrote the screenplay for this lyrical portrayal of the lives of prostitutes in 19th century Edo Japan. Read more
Published on April 16, 2009 by Z Hayes
4.0 out of 5 stars A film about love and Japanese prostitutes: two whores on the roof
There are many Japanese plays about the prostitutes and kept women
who many times were sold as "contract" workers until even today? Read more
Published on February 15, 2009 by Roger Bagula
4.0 out of 5 stars The Harsh Life Of Prostitutes: And Even Harsher Reality Of Nature.
Beautiful cinematography highlights this Tokugawa era film. "The Sea Is Watching," was written by Akira Kurosawa, and directed by his son Kei Kumai. Read more
Published on September 23, 2007 by Ernest Jagger
4.0 out of 5 stars "Give the customer a good time.Don't get involved.Above all,get...
I am by no means an expert on Japanese films or Kurosawa and Kumai.What I do enjoy, though, is a good story told ,acted and executed well; so that said,THE SEA IS WATCHING was an... Read more
Published on August 12, 2007 by KerrLines
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow but not boring
This is not a film for fans of epic battles or monumental amounts of gore, nor is it for those with a short attention span. Read more
Published on March 20, 2007 by HugeStakkaBoFan
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