Yuzo Kawashima

Sog.: from an original story by Yoshiko Shibaki. Scen.: Toshiro Ide, Nobuyoshi Terada. F.: Kurataro Takamura. M.: Tadashi Nakamura. Scgf.: Kimihiko Nakamura, Mus.: Riichiro Manabe. Ass. regia: Shohei Imamura. Int.: Michiyo Aratama (Tsutae), Tatsuya Mihashi (Yoshiji, marito di Tsutae), Yukiko Todoroki (Otoku), Seizaburo Kawazu (Ochiai), Izumi Ashikawa (Tamako), Shinsuke Maki (Nobuo), Kenjiro Uemura (Denshichi), Shoichi Ozawa (Sankichi), Kyozo Fuyuki (Sobo). Prod.: Nikkatsu. DCP. D.: 81’. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Kawashima’s personal favourite among his own films recounts the story of a poor couple who find work in the bars and restaurants of Tokyo’s red light district. Lead actress Michiyo Aratama would go on to appear in films by Ozu, Ichikawa, and Kobayashi and Kihachi Okamoto. Tatsuya Mihashi, a regular in Kawashima’s Nikkatsu films, was in the early stages of an extensive film career; he would appear in Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well (1960), and in Japanese- American co-productions None But the Brave (1965) and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970). Shohei Imamura, who served as assistant on the film, praised its “extremely convincing, chilly atmosphere”, and the way in which this story of marginalised characters captured “the intimate atmosphere” of Yoshiko Shibaki’s source novella. Scholar Tomoyuki Sasaki refers to the film as “a counter- narrative to the success story of postwar economic recovery and growth that the Japanese state sought to promote”. In it, Kawashima “addresses the issues of the economic stagnation within the metropolis, uneven development, and the liminal space of muen, or ‘no ties’, which offers a brief refuge from an increasingly disciplined everyday life”. Its characters are simultaneously freewheeling and crafty survivors, and losers bound to repetitive and self-destructive behaviour. Through their experiences, Kawashima captures the anomie of postwar Tokyo. The “Kinema Junpo” reviewer praised the acting of Michiyo Aratama as Tsutae and Yukiko Todoroki as Otoku, but felt frustrated by the film’s tone, with its helpless main characters and their story, and hopeless ending. Nevertheless, he did praise Kawashima’s direction, stating that “it is a film I am glad to have seen, and depiction of the life of the young man and woman who only live for lust is done skillfully with a dry touch”. Kawashima himself stated that “Although Bakumatsu taiyoden has become known as my signature work, this is the kind of film I prefer. Although it was shot over an extremely short period of time. I more or less totally changed the script”. Shooting the film in the less salubrious corners of Tokyo proved perilous, as the director recounted: “When we first went to the shooting location, there was both an old and a new yakuza group with influence, and we had only cleared it with the old group. I, as the director, was called out as they surrounded me with drawn swords. At times like these, the police never do anything. Things like this actually happen in reality”.

Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordström

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