[Il papavero] T. int. The Field Poppy. Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Soseki Natsume. Scen.: Haruo Takayanagi, Daisuke Ito. F.: Minoru Miki. M.: Tazuko Sakane. Scgf.: Daizaburo Nakamura. Int.: Daijiro Natsukawa (Hajime Munechika), Ichiro Tsukita (Seizo Ono), Kazuyoshi Takeda (Tetsugo Kono), Chiyoko Okura (Sayoko), Ayako Nijo (Itoko), Mitsugu Terajima (il padre di Munechika), Toichiro Negishi (Asai), Kuniko Miyake (Fujio), Yoko Umemura (la madre di Fujio), Yukichi Iwata (Kodo Inoue). Prod.: Shochiku
5mm. D.: 73′. Bn.
The tragedy of prewar Japanese cinema is twofold. As a result of warfare, natural disasters, wear and tear and plain indifference, around 90% of all the films made before 1945 are lost. Moreover, many of those that do survive are preserved in copies which barely do justice to the original quality of the films. Surviving in second hand prints, often copied via 16mm dupes, scratched and torn, many of the classics of the 1930s emerge, even after sensitive restoration, as shadows of their former selves.
It is thus a particular delight to feature a restoration of one of Mizoguchi’s rarer films of the 1930s, The Field Poppy, restored from the original nitrate negatives. Adapted from a tale by the great early 20th-century author Soseki Natsume and based on a script by jidaigeki master Daisuke Ito, it is an understated melodrama that draws on motifs from the shinpa theatre, but has also earned comparison with Western cinema: “With the deftness of Max Ophuls”, James Quandt writes, “Mizoguchi tracks the romantic roundelay through the circulation of a symbolic object: a watch intended as a wedding gift”.
Mizoguchi was apparently discontented with this work, and his sentiments have been seconded by some critics: the “Kinema Junpo” reviewer, while praising Minoru Miki’s camerawork, found that it lacked the richness expected of its director. More recently, Antonio Santos has written that “the adaptation does not renounce the novelistic and melodramatic origin of the title”. Yet for Tadao Sato, it is “quintessential Mizoguchi”, and in its themes – the clash between the Westernised modernity of Tokyo and the traditional values of the Kansai region it remains exemplary of the wider tensions expressed in Japanese cinema in the 1930s and present in Japanese society as a whole. “There is deep realism in the depiction of the life of the Westernized elite”, Sato writes, “and [Mizoguchi’s] portrayal of the sensibilities of ordinary people (shomin) would be difficult to match today”.
Alexander Jacoby e Johan Nordström