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

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth? (Yasujiro Ozu, 1932)

Kinuyo Tanaka and Ureo Egawa in Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth?
Like his I Flunked, But.... (1930), Yasujiro Ozu's Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth? is a silent comedy about college boys and their life after graduating (or not graduating), featuring some of the same cast members and some of the same opportunities for comedy: a pep squad training, elaborate attempts to cheat on exams, and so on. This time there's a group of four students, centering on the richest one: Tetsuo (Ureo Egawa), whose father is president of an import-export company. Tetsuo and his buddies are all in love with the pretty Shigeko (Kinuyo Tanaka), who works for a local bakery and delivers bread and cakes to the campus. During an exam, in which all four are industriously trying to cheat, Tetsuo receives word that his father has fallen ill. When his father dies, Tetsuo leaves college to assume the presidency of the company -- which is in fact run by its vice-president, Tetsuo's uncle, who keeps trying to find a wife for Tetsuo, none of whom matches up to Shigeko in Tetsuo's opinion. Meanwhile, Tetsuo's buddies have flunked out, and they come to him looking for employment. They have to pass a company exam, but Tetsuo slips them the answers to the questions. Then one day, out in his chauffeured limousine with his uncle's latest choice for his wife, Tetsuo spots Shigeko with a cart with all her belongings: The bakery has closed, and she is moving to a new apartment. He sends the potential bride away in a huff, gives Shigeko a lift, and offers her a job at the company. He tells his buddies that he is going to marry Shigeko, not knowing that she has already promised to marry one of them, Saiki (Tatsuo Saito). When Tetsuo announces this, however, Saiki, who is the sole support of his mother, says nothing because he's afraid he'll lose his job, and even congratulates Tetsuo. When he learns the truth, from no less than Saiki's mother, Tetsuo angrily attacks Saiki, but he also recognizes that the real problem is social inequality, and the film ends with the Tetsuo and the remaining buddies, Kumada (Kenji Oyama) and Shimazaki (Chishu Ryu), waving goodbye to Saiki and Shigeko as they set off on their honeymoon. It's a warm-hearted movie that makes a smooth transition from slapstick to sentiment, while also scoring some points against tradition and the class system. The screenplay is by Ozu's usual collaborator, Kogo Noda, and the cinematography by Hideo Shigehara.

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