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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

No Blood Relation (Mikio Naruse, 1932)

Yoshiko Okada in No Blood Relation
Tamae Kiyooka: Yoshiko Okada
Masako Atsumi: Yukiko Tsukuba
Shigeko: Toshiko Kojima
Shunsaku Atsumi: Shin'yo Nara
Kishiyo Atsumi: Fumiko Katsuragi
Masaya Kusakabe: Joji Oka
Keiji Makino: Ichiro Yuki
Gen the Pelican: Shozaburo Abe
Neighbor Boy: Tomio Aoki

Director: Mikio Naruse
Screenplay: Kogo Noda
Based on a novel by Shunyo Yanagawa
Cinematography: Eijiro Fujita, Suketaro Inokai, Masao Saito

Before it settles down to become an intense domestic drama, No Blood Relation begins with a sequence of comic action: Gen, a goofy-looking purse-snatcher, is being chased through the streets until he collides with a man who holds him until the crowd catches up. Forced to strip, Gen reveals that he doesn't have the purse on him, and the cops send him away with his pants falling down around his ankles. But the man who caught him is actually an accomplice, Keiji, who hid the purse on himself when they collided. Keiji is the brother of a big Hollywood movie star, Tamae, who is returning that day to Japan for the first time in years, and Keiji and Gen see their chance for the big time as flunkies for Tamae. Her reason for returning home is to reclaim her daughter, Shigeko, whom she abandoned shortly after her birth. Her husband, Shunsaku, remarried, and his new wife, Masako, has proved to be a devoted mother to the little girl. Unfortunately, Shunsaku's business is about to go under, owing to his bad management and some shady deals that get him sent to prison. His mother, Kishiyo, is bitter about not only his business failure but also because this means they'll have to move out of their big house into a poor neighborhood. So when Tamae comes in search of her child, Kishiyo takes her side against Masako, leading to an intense battle between the birth mother and the one who is ... well, that's the point of the title. Masako fortunately has a defender, Masaya Kusakabe, whose relationship to the family is enigmatic: He's just returned from Manchuria, and since he's played by the handsome Joji Oka -- a sharp contrast to the plain and dour Shunsaku -- we begin to suspect that there's more to his relationship with Masako than meets the eye, though that part of the plot never pans out. No Blood Relation is a very effective tearjerker, with Naruse's characteristically hyperactive camera panning and dollying and zooming in to provide emphasis at key moments, and it shows Naruse's mastery of silent filmmaking, carrying the story without an overabundance of intertitles.

Filmstruck Criterion Channel

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