Wednesday, October 06, 2010


[La bella / The Belle] (Shochiku, JP 1930) D: Yasujiro Shimazu; SC: Tokusaburo Murakami, DP: Takashi Kuwabara; AD: Yoneichi Wakita; cast: Sumiko Kurishima (Tomoko Mizuhara), Yukichi Iwata (Shichiro Mizuhara, Tomoko’s elder brother), Kaoru Futaba (Osaki), Hideko Takamine (Iwao, Tomoko’s child), Shinyo Nara (Masaki Asano), Hikaru Yamauchi (Kosaka), Hideo Fujino (Senzo Kurotsu), Utako Suzuki (Shihoko, Yuriko’s mother), Emiko Yagumo (Yuriko), Kikuko Hanaoka (Momoko, Yuriko’s younger sister), Ayako Okamura (Torako Hayashi), Eiko Higashi (Otama, the maid), Kenichi Miyajima (Matsubara), Tokuji Kobayashi (Satomi), Jun Arai (the teacher); 35 mm, 3242 m, 158 min (18 fps); source: National Film Center, Tokyo. English intertitles on the print.
Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in Italian and Mie Yanashita on the grand piano, 6 Oct 2010

Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordström in the GCM Catalogue: "Based on a book by Koroku Sato, Reijin was inspired by a true incident which took place in the village of Irima in Saitama Prefecture. The film was shot on location in the same village. It tells the life story of a high-school girl, Tomoko, who is seduced and then abandoned by her bourgeois classmate’s fiancé. Pregnant, she leaves school, and after leaving her child in the country with her brother, goes to work in a nightclub. There, she meets the man who seduced her, now a company president seeking to buy land in the village where Tomoko’s brother lives with her child…
Made in the same year as Shigeyoshi Suzuki’s What Made Her Do It? (Nani ga kanojo o so saseta ka, 1930), Reijin is another example of the left-leaning keiko-eiga, or “tendency-film” genre, and similarly advances social criticism through the unjust experiences of a woman. Tadao Sato comments that “in this film the capitalists, the root of all evil, are portrayed as despicable, mean people, juxtaposed against good, honest common folk, whose anger is justified”. The heroine was played by the outstanding actress Sumiko Kurishima, who also appeared in Mikio Naruse’s Nightly Dreams (Yogoto no yume, 1933).
The Kinema Junpo reviewer, Hisao Murakami, found Shimazu’s direction uneven, and criticized Tokusaburo Murakami’s screenplay for staying too close to Sato’s book, resulting in excessively complex intertitles, but praised Takashi Kuwabara’s camerawork and the remarkable night scene at the factory, which was “cinematic, not a carbon copy of the book”. Reijin, he predicted, was “a film that will be talked about”. – ALEXANDER JACOBY & JOHAN NORDSTRÖM."

Print from a terribly scratched source, probably from a heavily duped 16 mm print, the visual quality of the original cinematography difficult to evaluate. The film starts with young women's dialogue on "the modern girl" and women's rights. The story proceeds fast to a rape sequence: Tomoko is raped by her best friend's fiancé. He is a poor student who has promised to marry his mentor's daughter and abandons Tomoko who gives birth to a baby, finds him a foster home in the countryside and starts to make a living in a nightclub. I watched 40 minutes from the beginning but the quality of the image was hard to take.

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