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, May 29, 2018

Thus Another Day (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1959)

Yoshiko Kuga and Teiji Takahashi in Thus Another Day
Yasuko Sato: Yoshiko Kuga
Shoichi Sato: Teiji Takahashi
Tetsuo Mori: Takahiro Tamura
Goro: Kazuya Kosaka
Kazuo Sato: Kanzaburo Nakamura
Kenzo Akada: Rentaro Mikuni

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

The hyperprolific Keisuke Kinoshita released two other films in 1959, and though Thus Another Day feels like it's crammed with ideas, they were given short shrift when it comes to working them out. It's a short feature, only 74 minutes, but it has enough plots and subplots for at least two movies. The central figures in the narrative are a married couple struggling to make ends meet. Shoichi works in Tokyo while Yasuko stays home with their young son, Kazuo. They have bought a house in the still semirural outskirts of the city, and Shoichi makes a mad dash for the bus every morning. Yasuko scrimps and saves, but receives scant praise for it from either Shoichi or their rather bratty child. Watching his mother do the wash by hand, Kazuo asks why they don't have a washing machine, and when she tells him they're saving up for it, he says he'd rather have a television set instead. Yasujiro Ozu treated the same kind of bullying juvenile materialism in a film made the same year, Good Morning, and Kazuo's blaming his father for not making more money is reminiscent of the children in an earlier Ozu film, I Was Born, But... (1932). Then Shoichi suggests that they rent out their house for the summer to a manager in his company who is looking for an escape from the city heat. It would not only help them pay the mortgage but would also curry favor with the higher-ups in the company. So Yasuko somewhat reluctantly agrees to take Kazuo and spend the summer with her family, who live in a resort area, while Shoichi bunks with a fellow employee in the city. At that point, the film begins to spin off into subplots and loses focus. Tension between Yasuko and Shoichi grows when he spends most of his occasional brief visits paying attention to his boss's wife, who is summering in the area. Yasuko befriends an older man who has a very young daughter to whom he is devoted, but when the little girl dies, he's sunk in a crippling, suicidal depression. The man's wife works at the resort, where some gangsters are hiding out and young thugs are bullying the locals, including a shy young man with a fine singing voice who is courting a local girl. Though all of these characters are interconnected in some way, Kinoshita never quite brings all of the relationships into focus, so when there's a murder disguised as an accident and an inevitable tragic denouement, these events don't have the impact they should. What does work in the film is Kinoshita's manipulation of atmosphere, from the sweltering city offices to the lush resort area, but this isn't enough to make the film more than a tantalizing sketch.

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