Directed by Osamu Takahashi (assistant director to Yasujiro Ozu in “Tokyo Story”), “Only She Knows” mixes detective story with a melodrama in an interesting film noir style that runs at a mere 63 minutes.
There is a murderer and rapist on the loose in the 1960s Tokyo, and the events are spanned over a couple of weeks in Christmas- and New Years’- time. Sugi (Fumio Watanabe) and Natsuyama (an Ozu regular Chishu Ryu) are the two police detectives chasing the criminal. He strikes at random women every four days, leaving no traces or clues for the police. Yet, the protagonists have one more thing in common – Sugi dates Natsuyama’s daughter Ayako, who becomes the next victim of the rapist. Although she survives the attack, her honour is still tarnished.
The strict moral code prohibits Ayako from telling about the event to her father or boyfriend. In such atypical greek tragedy-like plot, what comes to the fore is a critique of the conservative rules that run the Japanese society. The film’s message seems to be surprisingly modern and consistent with the post-MeToo era discourse. After all, the narrative largely focuses on the practices of silencing of rape victims.
In many scenes, the film ironically presents men oblivious to women’s plight in a conservative and strict society. In one of the argument scenes Ayako strikingly asks Sugi: “You think you’re right to forcibly reform me?”
Having watched a couple of Ozu films made in the same period, I couldn’t fight the premonition that Osamu Takahashi’s film expresses the feelings of a different, more rebellious generation. Shot in black and white in the claustrophobic streets of Tokyo, “Only She Knows” has a jazz score that attempts at amplifying its riotous tone. One of the most memorable sequences employs various dutch-angle shots which correlate with shake state of mind of Ayako.
Although on the narrative level “Only She Knows” seems to be an interestingly provocative film, it lacks energy and pace that could correspond with the plot. Rather than that, the director focuses on a more meditative note when the film also delves into the painful cracks that appear in the relationship between Sugi and Ayako after the rape incident. One of the central issues tackled is how to deal with trauma which hurts the couple, how would they move on with it? These are interesting questions, but a more interesting choice for me would be to focus on the consequences of male’s errors of judgment.