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, July 10, 2018

Farewell to Dream (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1956)

Noriko Kikuoki, Shinji Tanaka, and Yoshiko Kuga in Farewell to Dream
Yoichi Akimoto: Shinji Tanaka
Oshin, Yoichi's Mother: Yuko Mochizuki
Toyoko, Yoichi's Older Sister: Yoshiko Kuga
Genkichi, Yoichi's Father: Eijiro Tono
Kazue, Yoichi's Younger Sister: Noriko Kikuoki
Sudo: Takahiro Tamura
Seiji Harada: Ryohei Ono

Director: Keisuke Kinoshita
Screenplay: Yoshiko Kusuda
Cinematography: Hiroshi Kusuda
Art direction: Kazue Hirataka
Film editing: Yoshi Sugihara
Music: Chuji Kinoshita

The English title, Farewell to Dream, seems to be grammatically or idiomatically off: We would expect Farewell to a Dream or ... Dreams instead. (The Japanese title is Yûyake-gumo, which Google Translate renders as "Sunset Cloud.") But then there's something a little off about this entire short film -- only 78 minutes long. Its young narrator, Yoichi, tells us his story about how circumstances made him bid farewell to his dreams, except that he doesn't seem to have had any substantial dream other than not following in his father's footsteps as a fishmonger, a job he hates because it makes him smell of fish, causing other boys to taunt him. We can't really blame him, but the film never suggests that Yoichi had a clear plan of escape from that life. He spends a good deal of his time looking out over the rooftops of Tokyo through his binoculars, sighting a pretty young woman whom he dreams of meeting. Eventually, he and his friend Seiji make their way across the city to where they think the young woman lives, only to arrive in her neighborhood as she's getting into an automobile with the man she's engaged to marry. Yoichi's story is also mixed with that of his sisters: The elder one, Toyoko, is pretty and vain, and has a handsome boyfriend, Sudo. But when Sudo's family goes broke, she marries an older man -- and then carries on an affair with Sudo. When his father falls ill, Yoichi's parents allow a rich uncle to adopt his younger sister, Kazue, in exchange for some financial support, and we see Yoichi bid a sad farewell to the girl. I think we're meant to sympathize with Yoichi in the collapse of his family, but the irony is that after his father dies, Yoichi turns out to be a very good fishmonger, building a thriving business from his own talent as a cook by developing a sideline as a caterer and seller of prepared meals. Like it or not, Yoichi has become what many families would see as a blessing: the son who successfully keeps the family business alive. The effect is that Yoichi's lament for his lost future feels like self-pity rather than legitimate dismay at unfulfilled potential.

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