Giants and Toys (1958)

29 02 2008

Yasuzo Masumura takes a different narrative approach than his New Wave peers, which started becoming a force around the time this film was made. Six years earlier, Masumura made Kisses, which most likely fits the mold of J-New Wave debuts better than this film does. Here, instead of focusing on an intimate story of angst and rebellion, he draws his attention to a more broad topic, commercialism. A forerunner to Mike Judge’s Idiocracy of all things, Masumura’s film isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s certainly unique.

Nishi is working in World Caramel’s marketing department. Though seemingly new to the workplace, he’s able to keep up on the latest from rival companies through a friend working at Giant, and his girlfriend at Apollo. World Caramels launches a huge campaign spear-headed by a naive, gap-toothed cutie named Kyoko. She immediately develops a crush on Nishi but he ignores her advances. Heartbroken, she grows bitter and controlled by the power her newfound fame brings.

While certainly as unsubtle as you can get, this does pack quite a bit of a comedic punch. At it’s very worst, it’s just a compelling plot-driven piece of cinema, much like Masumura’s own Black Test Car. If you’re looking for character development, or deep emotional involvement, you’ll be disappointed. While all the characters are captivating in their own way, they never amount to much more than two-dimensional stand-ins, carrying out a fairly predictable story. Still, you can’t fault the film’s intentions and the satire is especially biting coming out of 1958. It’s still relevant today, but listening to a Bill Hicks album on the subject matter would be more informative, more profound, and much more funny. This is a nice, charming little social commentary, though, and a lot of fun.

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