A Taxing Woman

Juzo Itami’s third featureafter The Funeral (1984) and Tampopo (1986)follows the fanatical efforts of a dedicated tax official (Nobuko Miyamoto, Itami’s wife, who also played the female lead in Tampopo) to catch a variety of individuals who cheat on their tax forms, ranging from middle-income businessmen to big-time crooks. Although the action covers about a year and is partially a string of vignettes, much of it concentrates on the official’s attempts to nail down a ruthless real estate speculator who runs a clandestine adult hotel (Tsutomu Yamazaki). Lacking most of the comic gusto of Itami’s previous films, this one has a pretty icy objectivity, and whether the director sympathizes more with his determined heroine or with her various antagonists remains an open question; there’s a fair amount of unpleasantness on both sides. The result is a thoughtful film about a lively subject in Japanso successful in its native country that a sequel was madethat is still less compelling than Itami’s previous features (1987). (JR)

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