Although its photography and framing are in the great Japanese tradition, the techniques of Susumi Hani's SHE AND HE are very new wave-ish: a jumpy camera, highly elliptical scenario, and a nervous style of editing. If one goes on to point out that the film's theme can be described as Antonioniesque, SHE AND HE may sound like an extremely derivative work. And yet it is not: Hani's style is personal, and although Antonioni might not have rejected the subject matter, it is in no way a copy of the master.
A young couple live on the outskirts of Tokyo in a modern block of flats. She is a Manchurian refugee and an orphan, he a Japanese man-in-the-grey-flannel-suit, but nice. Next to their building lies a wasteland of wooden shacks. When a fire destroys these ramshackle huts, the wife becomes aware for the first time of the existence of this world - a world to which she, in her sleek middle-class comfort, had scarcely given a thought. Gradually, she becomes more and more involved in the squatters' lives, to the growing annoyance of her husband. "What are these people to you?" he Cain-like asks. She is forced to admit that she doesn't know, but at least she is trying to find out. Eventually the wasteland is completely razed to make room for one of those putting ranges which seem to have become the status symbol of modern Japan. The blind man, the rag-man and the others disappear; the dog is beaten to death; but it is too late now. Inside the concrete walls of their labour-saving flat, she awakens in the middle of the night; her eyes wide, she stares panic-stricken into space.
Like Antonioni's films, SHE AND HE depends very much on the leading actress to bear the weight of it. Hani's wife, Sachiko Hidari, is up to the responsibility. Sensitive, beautiful and radiant, she carries the film over its occasional patches of flabby construction. Like Monica Vitti, she isn't basically a moper, so one is all the more convinced by her realisation of the contradiction and the essentially tragic nature of life. The husband is played by Eiji Okada (of Hiroshima, mon amour) and he proves the perfect foil: basically a good guy, all he wants is a normal life, to work his eight hours and to come home to a quiet evening with his wife. No complications. With this film, Hani has more than fulfilled the promise of his earlier Bad Boys. Of the younger generation of Japanese directors, he seems the most likely to achieve stature. - Richard Roud, Sight & Sound, Autumn 1964