Sog., Scen.: Hideo Oguni. F.: Takeo Ito. M.: Toshio Goto. Int.: Kazuo Hasegawa (Bunkichi), Musei Tokugawa (Genzaemon Shinozaki), Hideko Takamine (Okyo), Yonosuke Toba (Tsubakiyama), Nijiko Kyokawa (Okon), Isuzu Yamada (Kotomi Fujieda), Ureo Egawa (Rokunoshin Hara), Haruhisa Kawada (Hachigoro), Kichinosuke Bando (Motome Yokoyama), Kan Sugi (Kanbei). Prod.: Toho. 35mm. D.: 89’. Bn.
Illustrating the ongoing influence of American cinema on Japanese directors in the era of nationalism, this well-cast murder mystery transposes the plot of the classic American comedy thriller, The Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 1934) to the tenements of Edo. Director Makino captures the sombre atmosphere of the tenements with something of the atmospheric precision of Yamanaka, although his approach is more populist and less purist, with some striking camera movements and close-ups. The tone of the film reflects the jokey, zesty dark humour of the Hollywood original.
Director Masahiro Makino (1908-1993) was the son of th so-called ‘father of Japanese cinema’, pioneering director Shozo Makino (1878-1929). In an extraordinarily prolific directorial career starting when he was a teenager and stretching over nearly half a century, he realised 261 films. He achieved notice with the downbeat three-part silent epic of tenement life, Roningai (Street of Masterless Samurai, 1928), and went on to specialise primarily in jidai-geki, sometimes serious in mood, sometimes with a comic inflection. Over the course of his long career, he contributed to a broad range of genres including the musical (Oshidori gassen, Singing Lovebirds, 1939), the socially conscious drama (Nikutai no mon, Gate of Flesh, 1948), and the ninkyo-eiga (‘chivalry film’), subgenre of the yakuza picture during the 1960s. Shortly after Kino kieta otoko, and perhaps surprisingly given the wartime context, he made another film inspired by Hollywood: Ahen senso (The Opium War, 1943) relocating D.W. Griffith’s Orphans of the Storm from Revolutionary France to nineteenth-century Canton, with Setsuko Hara and Hideko Takamine in the roles played in the original by Lillian and Dorothy Gish.
Alexander Jacoby e Johan Nordström