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

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Yearning (Mikio Naruse, 1964)

Yuzo Kayama and Hideko Takamine in Yearning
Reiko Morita: Hideko Takamine
Koji Morita: Yuzo Kayama
Hisako Morizono: Mitsuko Kusabue
Takako Morita: Yumi Shirakawa
Ruriko: Mie Hama
Shizu Morita: Aiko Mimasu

Director: Mikio Naruse
Screenplay: Zenzo Matsuyama
Based on a story by Mikio Naruse
Cinematography: Jun Yasumoto
Music: Ichiro Saito

Mikio Naruse's Yearning could almost have been a Douglas Sirk romantic melodrama, with Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson in the roles played by Hideko Takamine and Yuzo Kayama, except that Hollywood would never have allowed the Japanese film's bleak downer ending. (Sirk argued for an ending to the 1955 All That Heaven Allows in which Hudson's character died, but was overruled by producer Ross Hunter.) Like Sirk, Naruse takes the woman's side and uses the film for sharp commentary on the changing role of women. Reiko Morita's husband died in the war, after a brief marriage, but she stayed on to help the Morita family rebuild its business after the war ended, and in the subsequent years has run the family grocery and liquor store with great skill. But now a new threat has emerged to their business: the supermarket, which can afford to cut prices below what the Morita's store is able to charge. Reiko runs the store almost single-handedly, with no help from her brother-in-law, Koji, a college-educated layabout. And then her sister-in-law, Hisako, acting on a suggestion from her husband, proposes that the family convert the store into a supermarket because of its prime location. Koji, as the surviving male in the family, would become president -- if he can clean up his act. The problem with the plan is that there's no room in the scheme for Reiko, who is not actually a member of the family, even though she has kept it going for years. Meanwhile, Koji also discloses to Reiko that he's in love with her, which causes problems because she's his brother's widow as well as because she's 11 years older than he is -- the kinship and the age gap being huge challenges to tradition. When the situation reaches a crisis point, Reiko decides to go home to her own family, which lives far away. Koji follows her onto the train and in a long ride they try to work things out. Naruse and his lead actors give this concluding section a great poignancy, though it ends abruptly and painfully, leaving the audience to work out the consequences of the ending for themselves.

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