Monday, October 04, 2010

Ai yo jinrui to tomo ni are / [Love, Be with Humanity]

[Love, Be with Humanity] (Shochiku, JP 1931) D: Yasujiro Shimazu; ass. D: Shiro Toyoda, Fumio Suzuki, Katsuji Arai, Kozaburo Yoshimura, Katsuji Kuroyanagi; SC: Tokusaburo Murakami; DP: Takashi Kuwabara, Shinichi Nagai; AD: Yoneichi Wakita, Takashi Kono; cast: Sojin Kamiyama (Kokichi Yamaguchi), Tokihiko Okada (Osamu, his eldest son), Kimiko Hikari (Fujiko, his wife), Reikichi Kawamura (Yoichi Matsuyama), Mitsuko Yoshikawa (Misao, Kokichi’s elder daughter and Matsuyama’s wife), Hideko Takamine (Matsuyama’s son), Shinyo Nara (Kentaro Sekitani), Shizue Tatsuta (the wife Sakura, Kokichi’s younger daughter), Kinuyo Tanaka (Mayumi, Yu’s mistress), Denmei Suzuki (Yu, the younger son), Hideo Fujino (Okada, factory manager); 35 mm, 4990 m, 241' (18 fps); from: National Film Center, Tokyo. English intertitles on print, e-subtitles in Italian. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with a break and Mie Yanashita on the grand piano, 4 Oct 2010

Alexander Jacoby & Johan Nordström in the GCM Catalogue: "Ai yo jinrui to tomo ni are was made by Shochiku to celebrate the return to Japan of Sojin Kamiyama, an actor who had enjoyed a successful career in Hollywood under the name of Sojin, appearing in films such as The Thief of Bagdad (1924), the 1926 Moby Dick adaptation The Sea Beast, and Paul Leni’s The Chinese Parrot (1927), in which he played Charlie Chan. Indeed, the shooting of Shimazu’s film was delayed when Kamiyama had to go back briefly to America to complete one more film at Universal, during which time Shimazu himself realized two other movies. The shooting of Ai yo jinrui to tomo ni are itself stretched from October 1930 to April 1931, and drew on the services of all the actors, technicians, and staff that Shochiku’s Kamata studios could muster."

"This big-budget film was a truly epic undertaking, using more than 60 sets and also incorporating location shooting in Nikko, Akita, Aomori, and the area around Mount Fuji. It was said that if all the distances travelled to shoot the film were totalled, they would be equivalent to a trip around the world. The film enjoyed a month-long run in Japanese cinemas. Doubtless because of Kamiyama’s fame abroad, it was hoped that it would be shown internationally, although it is unclear if this was ever achieved."

"The film tells the story of four children who share the same father but have different mothers; the youngest son, played by Denmei Suzuki, is a troublemaker, who revolts against his father’s authority. The original script was written by Tokusaburo Murakami, a leading scriptwriter at Kamata, and has elicited comparisons with King Lear, although a more direct influence may have been Minoru Murata’s seminal 1921 Japanese film Souls on the Road (Rojo no reikon), in which Denmei Suzuki again played a son at odds with his father. Murakami was later to join Suzuki when the latter left Shochiku to work independently. – ALEXANDER JACOBY & JOHAN NORDSTRÖM." 

This is the first time I see a film by Yasujiro Shimazu. The print is from sources that are partly terribly battered, and there is mostly a heavily duped look, though some parts look fair. Shimazu is a strongly visual storyteller full of inventions and an assured sense of conveying psychology and terms of relationships via looks and gestures. The film starts as a bitter satire of alienation in the world of big money. Slowly it turns into tragedy, and the King Lear comparison is justified. Old man Yamaguchi is a king of the financial world, and he has four children who turn their backs to him when he has lost everything... except for the rebel son who finally saves his life. Memorable sequences include the jewel store, the dancing parlour, the sister's wedding from where the rebel brother is thrown out, the epic lumberland episode on the Sakhalin island, the forest fire destroying the Yamaguchi empire. The storytelling is strong until the final tragic episode of Yamaguchi's suicide attempt. But after that there is a happy ending in the Wild West! Kracauer would be smiling (Kracauer thought that cinema and tragedy are incompatible because the world of tragedy is closed and the world of cinema is open). Amazingly, Mie Yanashita on the grand piano succeeded in keeping a good drive in his music during the four hours of the film.

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