It's every bit as bawdy as most of his fictional movies, but Imamura's last full-length feature eschews most of the tragedy and struggle of his more straightforward dramas. Instead, a greater emphasis is placed on the libidinous humor so characteristic of the great director's output. The surrealism of The Eel is even more prominent here, and it's used both as a means to amplify one of Imamura's primary subjects of interest (sex) and to conjoin all of the disparate elements and numerous themes of an ingenious mystery and a very unconventional love story.
Both cast and crew will be familiar to anyone who's seen more than a couple of Imamura's films. Koji Yakusho and Misa Shimizu have been professionally acquainted in numerous projects other than The Eel, and Mitsuko Baisho has been a fine mainstay in almost all of Imamura's films since her role in Vengeance Is Mine. Shinichiro Ikebe has also scored most of Imamura's movies since then, and his characteristically goofy, bouncy score suits the oddities of this movie quite nicely.
While most of the story's innovations are to be credited to Yo Henmi, who wrote the novel from which this was adapted, the screenplay was undoubtedly tweaked to accommodate the quirky idiosyncrasies of an Imamura film. Written by Imamura and his Eel collaborators (his son, director Daisuke Tengan and Motofumi Tomikawa), the script is an unbalanced, charming mixture of humor and melodrama. Not all of the dramatic sequences are entirely convincing and the last ten minutes feel quite rushed, but overall, Warm Water is satisfying in a way that defies typical closure.
Despite his advanced age during the shooting of this film, Imamura's technique is as impressive here as it ever was. The drifting pans and bouncy, boat-mounted tracking shots feel natural and familiar, but they're the result of fastidious, carefully considered framing. By the end of his career, Imamura finally developed a style that defied the criticism leveled at him by both his detractors and himself.
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