Friday, October 08, 2010

Wakamono yo naze naku ka

[Perché piangete, ragazzi? / Why Do You Cry, Youngsters?] (Shochiku, JP 1930) D: Kiyohiko Ushihara; ass. D: Kazuo Ishikawa, Eijiro Nagatomi, Tokiro Miyata; SC: Tokusaburo Murakami; DP: Bunjiro Mizutani; cast: Hideo Fujino (Kiichi Uesugi), Denmei Suzuki (Shigeru Uesugi), Yukiko Tsukuba (Futaba Uesugi), Kinuyo Tanaka (Kozue Uesugi), Mitsuko Yoshikawa (Utako Uesugi), Shoichi Nodera (Uesugi’s servant), Ichiro Oguni (Uesugi’s secretary), Kaoru Futaba (Osawa), Jun Arai ( Juzo Yamakawa), Togo Yamamoto (Kiyoto Omiya), Tatsuko Tanizaki (Motoko Omiya), Kenichi Miyajima (Omiya’s secretary), Kazuji Sakai (Omiya’s chauffeur), Reikichi Kawamura (Karoku Ohara), Tokuji Kobayashi (Heikichi Ohara), Hiroko Kawasaki (Yumiko Ohara), Tokihiko Okada (Tosuke Kojima), Utako Suzuki (a mother), Hikaru Yamauchi (Shuzo Katori), Takeshi Sakamoto (Akazawa), Choko Iida (Keiko Tachibana), Sotaro Okada (Ichiro Kano), Haruo Takeda (barrister), Atsushi Watanabe (haberdasher); 35mm, 4416 m, 193 min (20 fps); source: National Film Center, Tokyo. English intertitles on the print. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in Italian and Stephen Horne on the flute and the grand piano, 8 Oct 2010

ALEXANDER JACOBY & JOHAN NORDSTRÖM in the GCM Catalogue: "Wakamono yo naze naku ka (Why Do You Cry, Youngsters?) was the last in the popular series of collaborations between director Ushihara and the star pairing of Denmei Suzuki and Kinuyo Tanaka. After completing the film in September 1930, Ushihara left Shochiku and went to Europe, ostensibly to study the new medium of sound film – although his departure seems really to have been motivated by conflict with studio head Shiro Kido. Denmei Suzuki too was to leave the studio the following year, and would help to found an independent production company, Fuji Film Productions, which was to produce such distinguished films as Shigeyoshi Suzuki’s Tears Behind Victory (Eikan namida ari, 1931) and The Reclaimed Land Where Bears Live (Kuma no deru kaikonchi, 1932), both shown at the Giornate in 2001.
In this final entry in the series, Suzuki and Tanaka play brother and sister, acting the parts of two of three children of the widowed Kiichi Uesugi. Uesugi’s remarriage, to the arrogant “modern girl” Utako, causes divisions in the family between his two daughters; the elder, Futaba, is herself a “modern girl” and sympathizes with her stepmother, while the traditional younger daughter Kozue, played by Tanaka, dislikes her. Utako’s selfish behaviour after Uesugi falls ill convinces his son, Shigeru (Suzuki), that Kozue is right, and the two siblings leave their father’s house to live in a suburban district. The story of this family is interwoven with the story of Shigeru’s old university friend Katori, a weak-spirited man who has abandoned his education and become associated with the modern set of which Utako is also a member.
Wakamono yo nake naku ka fascinatingly uses these personal dramas to explore what Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano has termed “the anxieties and disturbances of modernity in interwar Japan”. The characters personify the conflicts between the modern and the traditional, the indigenous and the foreign, making the film fascinating as a record and a critique of Japanese society in 1930. In addition, it contains excellent performances from Suzuki, Tanaka, and supporting actor Tokihiko Okada (playing left-wing journalist Kojima), and is imaginatively staged throughout by Ushihara. The film took second place in the domestic gendai-geki (films set in the present day) section of the Kinema Junpo critics’ poll for 1930. – ALEXANDER JACOBY & JOHAN NORDSTRÖM."

The print is from a damaged source in which the image at times about to vanish altogether. In Stephen Horne's live music performance the flute was a welcome addition. The story of the young generation's (the brother and the sister's) rebellion against the father's. The film seems indeed a fascinating record of the contemporary Japanese society, but the visual quality was so hard to take that I resigned after 40 minutes.

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