T. int.: The Neighbor’s Wife and Mine [La vicina e la moglie]. Scen.: Komatsu Kitamura, Akira Fushimi. F.: Bunjiro Mizutani, Hitoshi Hoshino, Yoshio Yamada. Scgf.: Yoneichi Wakita. Mu.: Haruyasu Shimada. Su.: Takeo Tsuchihashi, Haruo Tsuchihashi. Int.: Atsushi Watanabe (Shibano Shinsaku), Kinuyo Tanaka (sua moglie), Mitsuko Ichimura (Teruko), Satoko Date (Madame), Dekao Yokoo (il pittore), Shinichi Himor (uomo sconosciuto), Takeshi Sakamoto (l’autista), Yukiko Inoue (la ragazza della porta accanto). Prod.: Shochiku (Kamata) 35mm. D.: 56’ a 24 f/s. Bn.
Made at Shochiku, this was the first feature-length Japanese talkie to win both unequivocal critical praise and broad commercial success. It was a contribution to the then popular genre of the nansensu-eiga (‘nonsense film’), a form of comedy oriented primarily towards slapstick humour. The film’s innovative exploitation of the new medium, including imaginative use of offscreen sound, helped to earn it the top spot in that year’s “Kinema Junpo” critics’ poll. Significantly, the plot actually revolves around sound, a fact highlighted by its working title, Tonari no zatsuon (The Noise Next Door). An author struggling with writer’s block is further distracted by a series of noises, including the jazz music emanating from a nearby house, which he determines to silence…
Although he had been directing since 1925 and had already made thirty-eight films, this is the first example of Gosho’s output to survive. It displays the wit and lightness of touch which characterised his work at Shochiku during the 1930s, but Arthur Nolletti, Jr., praises the director’s efforts to imbue the comedy with “gravity and realism”, and its “incisive” observation of a traditional Japanese marriage.
As with many Japanese films of the 1930s, the plot pivots around the contrast between two women: the protagonist’s traditional, demure, kimono-clad Japanese wife and the sexualised, Westernised ‘modern girl’, or moga. This contrast is pointed up in the film’s title, with the traditional term nyobo (wife) written in Chinese-derived kanji characters, while madamu (‘madame’) is written in the katakana script used to transliterate foreign words. Interestingly, the moga is associated with sound film, not only through her love of jazz, but also through a poster for the ‘all-talking’ Hollywood film Madame X (1929) glimpsed on her wall. The film’s two theme songs, The Age of Speed and Speed Boy, also evoke an age of modernity, and were released on record to tie in with the launch of the film.
The film was shot according to a so-called ‘dual system’ as opposed to the ‘single system’ used by Mina Talkie. An optical recorder was used to capture the sound separately from the images, yielding a sound negative in addition to a picture negative. This separate recording was to become a standard for film production. Gosho overcame the limitations of the new process, such as having to have the film’s score played live by an offscreen orchestra as filming was in progress. He was to continue to explore the possibilities of sound in a comic register with two subsequent films, Hanayome no negoto (The Bride Talks in Her Sleep, 1933) and Hanamuko no negoto (The Groom Talks in His Sleep, 1935), although, like other directors at this period, he interspersed these sound films with silent projects up to the mid-1930s.