Yoru no tsuzumi (Night Drum/The Adulteress). 1958. Japan. Directed by Tadashi Imai. Screenplay by Shinobu Hashimoto, Kaneto Shindô. With Rentarô Mikuni, Ineko Arima, Masayuki Mori. 35mm. In Japanese; English subtitles . 95 min.
Scholar Alexander Jacoby considers Night Drum Tadashi Imai’s masterpiece, in which the equally talented screenwriters Shinobu Hashimoto and Kaneto Shindô transform Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s 18th-century puppet play into “a scathing attack on the repressive social codes of feudal Japan, which lead a nobleman to kill his wife after she commits adultery. Here, especially in the stunning climax, Imai’s social critique achieved a rare emotional intensity.” After a wartime career making nationalist propaganda films—he called this “the biggest mistake of my life”—Imai turned to humanist portraits of outcasts: servants, mixed-race children, victims of radioactive poisoning, and, above all, women confined by their social class. 35mm print from the National Film Archive of Japan; courtesy Shochiku