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The Sea Is Watching

4.0 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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(Nov 18, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

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.

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

Special Features

  • In Japanese with optional subtitles

Product Details

  • Actors: Misa Shimizu, Nagiko Tohno, Masatoshi Nagase, Hidetaka Yoshioka
  • Directors: Kei Kumai
  • Producers: Naoto Sarukawa
  • 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:
  • 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 (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000CGNEG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,557 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Sea Is Watching" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel J. Hamlow HALL OF FAME on 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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2 Comments 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
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.
Comment 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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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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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. Without giving anything away, the script spends a good 50% of its time developing a very simple, cliché and generally predictable love story. It is during this time that I found myself sitting there wishing I hadn't wasted money on what I felt was a studio's attempt to cash in on the unfinished work of a dead master by producing such a dreadful period piece. However, if you stick to your guns, this trite and contrived story eventually gives way to a larger and more interesting story that had been running underneath the surface, and this one is where the payoff lies.

Would Kurosawa have shot it differently? Almost certainly, but he's dead, so there's no point in arguing about that. The writing is very much in tune with all of his later works however, and I do believe that this film told the story he wanted to tell successfully regardless of who sat behind the camera. The chroma keying at the end was pretty shabbily done, but otherwise I ended up enjoying the film quite a bit despite my initial impressions. It certainly makes that other big-budget Geisha movie look like a steaming pile of something in comparison.
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