Saturday, October 09, 2010

Tokyo no eiyu

[Un eroe di Tokyo / A Hero of Tokyo] (Shochiku, JP 1935) D: Hiroshi Shimizu; asst. D: Isao Numanami, Tai Ogiwara, Minoru Matsui, Hideo Oba; SC: Masao Arata; DP: Hiroshi Nomura; AD: Yoneichi Wakita; cast: Yukichi Iwata (Kaichi Nemoto), Mitsuko Yoshikawa (Haruko Nemoto), Mitsugu Fujii (Kanichi Nemoto), Michiko Kuwano (Kayoko Nemoto), Hideo Mitsui (Hideo Nemoto), Tokkan-kozo (Kanichi as a boy), Mitsuko Ichimura (Kayoko as a girl), Jun Yokoyama (Hideo as a boy); 35 mm, 1750 m, 64 min (24 fps), sound; source: National Film Center, Tokyo. English intertitles on the print. Silent film with synchronized score. Viewed at Cinemazero, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in Italian, 9 Oct 2010

ALEXANDER JACOBY & JOHAN NORDSTRöM in the GCM Catalogue: "This late silent film is little more than an hour long, and achieves a narrative concentration and emotional intensity which place it among the neglected gems of the Japanese cinema of the 1930s. The story focuses on the widower Nemoto, ostensibly a businessman, who has one son, Kanichi, the hero of the title. Nemoto remarries; his new wife is a widow with a son and daughter of her own. However, Nemoto’s business turns out to be out a shady scam, and he disappears, leaving his wife to raise the three children alone. In order to support the family, she is obliged to become a bar hostess. She conceals this shameful employment from the children, but the truth comes out years later, after her daughter is rejected by her husband’s family when they investigate her background. The film contains powerful performances from Mitsugu Fujii, here making the last of his regular appearances for Shimizu, and Mitsuko Yoshikawa, a specialist in the haha-mono (“mother-film”) genre. Contemporary critics commented on the darkness of Shimizu’s work at this period, and indeed the director is unsparing in his depiction of the Japanese family, and trenchant in his criticism of the social assumptions that destroy it from outside and from within. Moreover, the film also has a broader political application: William M. Drew has drawn attention to the film’s metaphorical critique of the imperialist activities of the military government of the time. He calls Tokyo no eiyu Shimizu’s “most emotionally overwhelming film, unsparing in its depiction of human tragedy, with its vision probably the bleakest of all his works”. Perhaps surprisingly given its subversive elements, the film was both a critical and a commercial success. ALEXANDER JACOBY & JOHAN NORDSTRöM."

A good print. - There are two parts in this film. The first part shows the disintegration of the family. The father is a crook whose goldmine scam is exposed and he abandons his family. The mother sustains the family with three children by becoming a bar proprietor, keeping her profession a secret. But when the mother's profession is exposed ten years later, her daughter is divorced and becomes a streetwalker, and one son interrupts his studies, becomes a gangster and dies from a gunshot wound. Another son becomes an investigative journalist who finds out that his father is now a gangster boss who has launched another goldmine fraud, this time in Manchuria. The mother closes her bar and turns her back to her son who has betrayed his father. The story is pretty far fetched, but Hiroshi Shimizu infuses it with conviction. In the beginning a running joke is introduced with children dwelling by the railway waiting for their fathers. Some fathers come home earlier, some later. The children conclude that the later the father returns the more important he is. In a later scene when mama comes late they deduce that "mama got promoted". The actors are good, and Hiroshi Shimizu creates strong images about injustice, loneliness, bitterness, and disappointment.

No comments: