Utajo oboegaki (1941)

5 06 2008

Back on yee ‘ole melodramatic route with Shimizu. This film ends up feeling a lot less over the top than Forget Love for Now (Koi mo wasurete, 1937) but still of the very bleak vein. It doesn’t have the same carefree plotless and easygoingness of many of his features, specifically all of those that came in Shochiku’s first boxset, but it does have an equally great “professional” sensibility. Also, this is probably his most technically accomplished work, featuring Bela Tarr-esque observational tracking shots, proving that Shimizu really was relentless as an innovator. Not one of his greatest works, but one that reinforces just how intelligent he was as a person and as a director.

Uta, a restless itinerant performer, is taken in by a wealthy tea merchant. All he asks of Uta is that she teaches his daughter how to dance. Rumors quickly begin spreading regarding the specifics of Uta’s relationship with the tea merchant. He dies and leaves an enormous debt behind for his family. The merchant son is too young and inexperienced to take care of the business. Uta encourages him to go back to school, which he does, leaving her in charge of the company.

It should be noted that it is relatively difficult to fully comprehend all the events because, as the screenshots clearly show, this isn’t the greatest looking copy of all-time. That said, Shimizu, as usual, is very straight-forward in his storytelling approach which makes it very possible to comprehend even the more random and inessential sequences. While I still prefer Shimizu’s style in Kanzashi, Arigato-san, and so on, I can still greatly appreciate this film’s very accomplished aesthetic. Even if we are diving into the melodramatic here, we are doing so rather gracefully, which isn’t at all like the similarly minded tragedy that Kenji Mizoguchi was making at around the same time. Overall, this really is just a wonderful, slightly too “down” (so to speak) film pulled off in a very undramatic fashion.

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One response

7 06 2008
Michael Kerpan

This has a happy ending, however (unlike forget love for now). ;~}

I may not love this as much as Arigato-san and Kanzashi (and Japanese Girls) — but I love it all the same. I very much look forward to seeing this in improved condition.

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