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

Monday, March 19, 2018

Immortal Love (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1961)

Hideko Takamine, Tatsuya Nakadai, and Yoshi Kato in Immortal Love
Sadako: Hideko Takamine
Heibei: Tatsuya Nakadai
Takashi: Keiji Sada
Tomoko: Nobuko Otowa
Yutaka: Akira Ishihama
Naoko: Yukiko Fuji
Sojiro: Yoshi Kato
Rikizo: Kiyoshi Nonomura
Eiichi: Masakazu Tamura
Morito: Masaya Totsuka
Heizaemon: Yasushi Nagata

Director: Keisuke Kinoshita
Screenplay: Keisuke Kinoshita
Cinematography: Hiroshi Kusuda
Art direction: Chiyoo Umeda
Film editing: Yoshi Sugihara
Music: Chuji Kinoshita

I'm a little surprised to find that Keisuke Kinoshita's screenplay for Immortal Love is "original." The film has the feeling of an adaptation from one of those doorstop "sins of the father" family sagas like East of Eden. It's full of melodramatic moments, including at least one rape and several suicide attempts, including a successful one in which the character jumps into a volcano. It spans three decades and is loaded with enough plot and characters to fill a much longer film, which is why it sometimes seems a little skimpy. The plot is set in motion when Heibei, the son of a wealthy landowner, returns from the invasion of Manchuria in 1932 with a crippling war injury. He spies the pretty Sadako, the daughter of one of his father's tenants, but she loves Takashi, another tenant farmer's son who has also served in China. When Takashi returns he finds that Sadako has been raped by Heibei and is set to marry him. As the years pass, Sadako stays with Heibei, tending to him and his aging father, and bearing three children -- one of whom was conceived during the rape, a fact that will develop into a plot point. Takashi marries and moves away, but his wife, Tomoko, bears a kind of grudge against Sadako, her husband's first love. And things get complicated as the children grow up. The film works largely because of the actors, even though both Hideko Takamine and Tatsuya Nakadai, considerable performers, seem a little stretched to put across their characters. Heibei, for example, comes across as a deep-dyed villain until the very end, despite some closeups in which Nakadai seems to be trying to suggest the character's remorse for his villainy. And Takamine is faced with playing the dutiful wife to a man she despises, undermining him secretly and passive-aggressively. It's a tribute to both actors that they make the film as watchable as it is. Kinoshita tries some things that don't really work, like a ballad that bridges the time gaps between "chapters" (of which there are five), and the guitar-based score by his brother, Chuji Kinoshita, sounds like flamenco -- an odd choice for the very Japanese story and setting. Even the title given it for American distribution is askew -- none of the loves depicted in it seem particularly deathless. It was released in the United Kingdom as Bitter Spirit, which seems more appropriate. The film was Japan's entry for the foreign language film Oscar; it made the shortlist but lost to Ingmar Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly

No comments: