Color / Vista / 1994 / 110 min / Suntory, TV Asahi. Tohoku Shinsha, Kitty Films
Director : Watanabe Takayoshi
Script : Tanaka Yozo
Based on the novel by : Yamamoto Masayo
Photography : Fujisawa Junichi
Art Director : Inagaki Hisao
Music : Umebayashi Shigeru
Producers : Inami Munetaka
Sotaro, a bar owner : Hagiwara Kenichi
Satoko, his new wife : Yamaguchi Tomoko
Shizuko, his former wife : Muroi Shigeru
Tatsuo, Sotaro’s friend : Miyake Yuji
Koichi, the liquor boy : Nishijima Hidetoshi
The fish monger : Yana Nobuo
Sakuma : Hashizume Isao
Rie, his daughter : Shibuya Kotono
Sugimoto Nobuya : Toyokawa Etsushi
Setting: Yokohama in the 1990s.
Sotaro runs a small. Japanese-style drinking establishment called Kazusaya in Yokohama. A kind and loving man, he sincerely promises his wife Shizuko on her deathbed that he will never marry again. But left to run his busy business alone, he soon buckles under his insistent brother’s pressure to consider an arranged marriage with a lovely young woman named Satoko. When it is clear that Satoko is also interested in him, Sotaro soon agrees to the marriage.
Satoko is immediately popular with the Kazusaya regulars, but no sooner does she moves in than Shizuko returns as a ghost to haunt the scared new couple. While Shizuko is never evil towards Satoko, Sotaro is quickly fed up with this obstacle to his new life, so he goes to the local temple to consult with the head priest. After reading sutras over Shizuko’s grave, the priest lends Sotaro a special hanging scroll, a painting that acts as a door to the world of the dead and a trap for Satoko. That night, Sotaro and Satoko succeed in tricking Shizuko to enter the painting, but a thief manages to steal the scroll .when, it is being delivered to the priest. The thief and the art dealer he brings it to, however, are soon scared by Shizuko into returning the scroll to Sotaro- via a man named Sakuma, a Kazusaya regular who happens to be in the store. Almost out of vengeance, Shizuko enters Satoko’s body and entices Sotaro to have sex with her, something that shocks Satoko when she. comes to in the morning. Having received a letter from her ex-lover Sugimoto, Satoko leaves to meet with him.
In the meantime, one of Sotaro’s long-time friends Tatsuo, is trying to reunite with his wife, who left him ten years before over his gambling addiction.Trying to help her pay off her ¥5,000.000 debt, he borrows ¥500,000 to bet on a Giants-Tigers game at 10 to 1 odds. Hoping to save his friend, Sotaro pleads with Shizuko to tell him the result of that night’s game, insisting that it is the living that matter most from now on. While knowing that if she does, she will no longer be able to haunt this world, Shizuko still consents to help. After entering Satoko’s body to help her get rid of Sugimoto, a murderer just out of prison, Shizuko gives Sotaro the information with which to secretly change Tatsuo’s bet. That night, after helping Sakuma reunite with the daughter he ran away from, Sotaro tells a now gleeful Tatsuo, who had thought he had lost his money, what he had done. Shizuko returns to the Kazusaya in Satoko’s body to say goodbye, leaving Sotaro and Satoko to enjoy their new life together.
Notes : Watanabe Takayoshi, who was once assistant director to such greats as Suzuki Seijun, helmed one of the best comedies of 1994 with Ghost Pub. Never a farce, the film follows the Shochiku style of mixing comedy with a slightly nostalgic sense of communality, albeit with a darker mood imparted by a story about death and parting. In addition to the veteran Hagiwara Ken’ichi, Ghost Pub features the TV actress Yamaguchi Tomoko in her first film role and the multi-talented queen of indie films, Muroi Shigeru.