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, April 5, 2018

Spring Dreams (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1960)

Chieko Hagashiyama and Chishu Ryu in Spring Dreams
Chizuko Okudaira: Mariko Okada
Miss Yasugi: Yoshiko Kuga
Shobei Okudaira: Eitaro Ozawa
Shinichiro Atsumi: Chishu Ryu
Grandma: Chieko Hagashiyama
Miss Yae: Michiko Araki
Tamiko Okudaira: Yatsuko Tan'ami
Mamoru Okudaira: Yusuke Kawazu
Dr. Hanamura: Shuji Sano
Eiichi Kato: Shinlji Tanaka
Ema: Miki Mori
Haruko: Mie Fuji
Kimiko: Meiko Nakamura
Umeko: Yukio Toake

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

Keisuke Kinoshita's attempt at something like screwball comedy, Spring Dreams, has been likened to Jean Renoir's Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932) because of its premise: a member of the lower classes throws a self-centered middle class household into chaos. In this case, it's a sweet potato vendor who has a stroke in the living room of the Okudaira household and is forced to recuperate there. Because most of the action takes place in a few rooms in the Okudaira house, I'm more reminded of the stage comedies of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, The Man Who Came to Dinner and You Can't Take It With You, especially since Kinoshita films with long "theatrical" takes. The head of the household, Shobei Okudaira, is an irascible would-be tyrant, bullying and mocking not only his family but also his secretary, Miss Yasugi, taunting her as an old maid. The workers of his pharmaceutical company are threatening to strike as the film begins, so he has a lot to bluster about. In true comic fashion, there are romantic problems to solve -- Shobei's daughter Chizuko wants to marry an artist, while he wants her to marry the son of one of his executives, if only to provide a suitable heir for his business. His own son, Mamoru, is a nerdy would-be philosopher who goes about inquiring into the meaning of life and has no interest in the business or much of anything else. (He's played by Yusuke Kawazu, unrecognizable as the same actor who played the rebellious Kiyoshi in Nagisa Oshima's Cruel Story of Youth, made the same year.) In the course of the film, the spinster Miss Yasugi will also find love, and even the matriarch of the household, Okudaira's mother-in-law, will recognize the sweet potato vendor as the lost love of her youth -- they're played, incidentally, by Chieko Hagashiyama and Chishu Ryu, the elderly couple of Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story (1953). Chuji Kinoshita's harpsichord score lends a delicacy to a film with a good deal of charm.

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