Juzo Itami's Minbo no Onna -- a virtual textbook on how to beat yakuza harassment -- was a big hit and almost got its director killed in the wake of a gangland knife-attack. Itami's follow-up is a light-hearted meditation on death and dying, strongly recalling Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece Ikiru. Buhei Mikai (Rentaro Mikuni) is a middle-aged film director afflicted with stomach cancer, though true to convention, he is not informed of his malady. Instead, the hard-drinking Mikai continues to direct and star in a maudlin tearjerker about, ironically, a couple stricken with cancer. Though married to his long-suffering wife (played by Itami regular and wife of the director Nobuko Miyamoto), Mikai is having an affair with his onscreen spouse (Haruna Takase). Mikai's feelings of health and well-being give way to anger and confusion when he is suddenly told that he needs an urgent operation. While in a hospital waiting room, a fellow cancer patient tells Mikai of how doctors conceal the truth from their patients. Just as Watanabe does in Ikiru, Mikai grows pale and quickly learns that he too has been a victim of the hospital's ruse. His wife -- who had cottoned on to her husband's extramarital dalliances and who was on the brink of leaving him -- rallies to his side. After a couple of desperate attempts at suicide Mikai awakes for the first time to the joys of life and family. Soon the director returns home to die, surrounded by friends and loved ones.
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