Ore mo omae mo (1946)

6 11 2012

I decided to give myself a break from Naruse in 1935 by treating myself to a Naruse from 1946. I’d say something like how remarkable it is to be so different in 11 years, but I’ve already mentioned the difference between the films made in the same year. I’m finding myself thinking this with every other film I seen from him, but this one really is an anomaly. The fact that it is centered around two men should be more than enough evidence, but even then, it still feels like a Naruse film, with some gently humorous moments and fantastic performances.

Aono and Ooki are best friends and co-workers. Their friendship is somewhat built around the fact that they’re both favorites of their boss. The boss often asks them to show up to personal parties to entertain, perform manual labor outside of work, and eventually, involves them within a black-market transaction. This all occurs under their noses as the two still see their boss as an outstanding individual. In the mean time, Aono’s daughters are looking into marriage. This becomes a problem when one of them finds a suitable match in a young man with a higher standing than Aono himself. To make things worse, Aono can’t find time to meet his daughter’s suitor until a company party, one which Aono has only been invited to because he and Ooki perform a humorous bit in kabuki-drag. The daughter is humiliated, which leads to Aoni and Ooki taking a stand.

While there is definitely some political weight in the proceedings, this is definitely a comedy. Aono and Ooki are played by Entatsu Yokoyama and Achako Hanabishi who made up a popular manzai (think a Japanese Abbot and Costello) act at the time. Neither one is really the straight man, instead it’s a role that seems to rotate in the situation. A sequence in which the two are forced to take care of their boss is played up for laughs in a Chaplin-esque manner. The two seem amazingly oblivious of how their being used, frequently reminding each other that they truly have the best boss in the world.

Seeds of doubt are planted throughout the film, though. One particularly impressive moment involves Ooki’s son practicing for some sort of Communist play, in which the protagonist’s “boss” sounds a little too familiar. It bothers Ooki that he requests that his son stop practicing and that his idealism will never be applicable when he graduates from college and joins the workforce. The irony here, of course, is that such politics are entirely applicable to Ooki’s life, he’s just a little too overwhelmed by his employer’s superficial generosity to understand what is going on.

Aono and Ooki ultimately turn around and take a stand against their boss in the film’s final sequence, where they accuse him of mistreatment and confront him about his shady background. Even this sequence has moments of comedy as Aono follows up Ooki’s realistic allegations with completely preposterous ones. Their point still gets through as their fellow coworkers send them off into the sunset with applause. They end up making their point by sticking together and fighting the powers that be together, rather than separately. This is representative of the “salaryman” dramas popular in Japan during the 1930s, but also depicts a type of “buddy film” genre that really never became a trend in Japan. Maybe it’s a bit of the boys from I Was Born But… grown up, but less pathos. It’s not a masterpiece, but it is a delightful and even sweet film from Naruse about male friendship, a topic to which he never really returned.

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One response

9 11 2012
MattL

Thanks for writing about Naruse. Over the past couple of years I have become a fan and sought out his films. I’m not sure how you are getting a hold of these films but hopefully they will be made available at some point.

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