A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, April 2, 2016

No Regrets for Our Youth (Akira Kurosawa, 1946)

Setsuko Hara in No Regrets for Our Youth
No Regrets for Our Youth seems like an ironic title for a film made in a country that in 1946 had much to regret. It is, in fact, a kind of apologia for the students and intellectuals who resisted the rise of militaristic fascism in Japan, a fictionalized treatment of the "Takigawa incident" of 1933 -- an event that perhaps few in the West, except students of Japanese history, know about today. After a professor at the law school of Kyoto University was removed by the Japanese Ministry of Education for statements that the education minister regarded as "Marxist," other faculty members resigned and students went on strike. Kurosawa's film focuses on a professor (Denjiro Okochi), his daughter Yukie (Setsuko Hara), and two of his students, Itokawa (Akitake Kono) and Ryukichi Noge (Susumu Fujita), and spans the years from the incident at the university to the end of the war. It's unusual among Kurosawa's films in that the protagonist is a woman, Yukie, whose relationships with her scholarly father, the accommodating Itokawa, and the rebellious Noge are examined in detail. She chooses to join Noge in his revolt against the Japanese government, which leads to their imprisonment and his death, after which she seeks out his parents, peasants in a remote village. They have been shunned by the other villagers as "spies" and "traitors," but she defies them and helps Noge's parents survive, doing the backbreaking work of clearing land and planting rice. Setsuko Hara, who did some of her most memorable work for Yasujiro Ozu but also appeared in Kurosawa's 1951 film Hakuchi, based on Dostoevsky's The Idiot, is nothing short of phenomenal as Yukie, ranging from the young and flirtatious girl to the worn but determined survivor. Kurosawa, as usual, is a skilled storyteller -- he edited as well as directed the film. The cinematography is by Asakazu Nakai.