Tsuki wa noborinu / The Moon Has Risen (1955)

28 12 2015

Penned by the legend himself, it’s tempting to think of Kinuyo Tanaka’s The Moon Has Risen as an honorary Yasujiro Ozu film. While it show signs of his very specific poetic flourishes (via pillow shots) and one of its chief concerns is generational conflict, I think it would be a bit reductive of Tanaka herself to say she’s simply made an Ozu film. Instead, she’s taken the best elements from Ozu’s script and paired it with her unique understanding of the world. Ozu’s fingerprints are all over the narratives and indeed, some of the stylistic choices, but Tanaka brings an energy to the film that is unmatched by any filmmaker in the 1950s. She has undone some of the threads woven by Ozu in a film like Late Spring, the father here is in the background, and our focus becomes squarely on the daughters. As Chishu Ryu fades into the background, Mie Kitahara and Yoko Sugi emerge to the front. Their sibling conflict seems flimsy and light, but Tanaka grants it a value and respect unequaled in cinema. Ozu made the quotidian dramas between generations both palpable and poignant, Tanaka has done the same for a drama within one generation.

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Setsuko Asai is the youngest of three sisters. The women, along with their father, Mokiahi (Chishu Ryu, of course), live in the quiet and unassuming town of Nara. The tranquil location is best known for its deer, which is not the ideal attraction for someone in their twenties. Setsuko longs to return to Tokyo, the family’s home prior to the death of her mother. Mr. Amamiya, an engineer for Dai-Nihon Electricity arrives in Nara to investigate the town’s radio tower. Setsuko sees his presence as a chance to act as a matchmaker for her sister, Ayako. However, Ayako is resistant, and Setsuko continued focus on this coupling serves as a wedge between her and her boyfriend, Shoji.

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Outside of Kinuyo Tanaka’s directorial chops, the nicest surprise in The Moon Has Risen is the presence of Mie Kitahara, who is otherwise known for her role in Kō Nakahira’s Crazed Fruit. She would go on to appear in a handful of noir films for Nikkatsu, as a dangerous siren. She’s given much more to operate with here, not reduced to the potential hazards of misguided male desire. If anything, male desire has little value to Tanaka. It is not difficult to imagine the same material in Ozu’s hands as spending more time with the family’s father. Instead, his sadness, which is respected, is concisely conveyed in two or three sequences. Kitahara drives the drama, especially in the film’s first half, where her desperate attempts at playing cupid fall comically flat.

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Kitahara’s hijinx gives the film a lighter, fluffier tone, but there is something bubbling under her screwball-esque matchmaking. In one of the film’s most beautiful sequences, Setsuko and Shoji hide behind the pillars of a temple as they spy on Mr. Amamiya, who has been tricked into meeting Ayako. The problem, of course, is that Ayako is not actually ever going to show up. The “plans” were made by Setsuko herself, to see if Mr. Amamiya would be willing to meet up with Ayako in the first place. Dwarfed by the architecture of the place, Setsuko wonders out loud, “how long will he wait for her?” before hatching another scheme to inform him that Ayako isn’t coming. The moment is heavily reminiscent of a set piece by Michelangelo Antonioni and the question of “how long will her wait for her?” seems to be a different phrasing of the question posed at the end of L’Eclisse: “will the lovers ever find each other?”

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Tanaka’s camera frequently finds the surrounding architecture as either harmonious to the bodies inhabiting it, or acting in complete interference with them. Sometimes this is brought up in the dialogue itself. Setsuko, wistfully clamoring for a return to Tokyo’s urban space tells her father that she’d love to see what the family’s old house looks like today. He, comfortable in the rural quiet of Nara, responds pragmatically “all covered in weeds.” Mokiahi brings up a similar thought towards the end of the film, when he wonders why “dusty and dirty” Tokyo is so appealing to the younger generation. This disconnect is mirrored by his absence in the film, although his loneliness and the melancholy brought on by time’s passing register to the audience, he isn’t given the slightest bit of authority over the lives of his daughters.

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While it appears for no more than two or three scenes, the second half of the film does indeed feature a particularly fascinating dialogue on communication. Mr. Amamiya has returned to Tokyo, but he’s kept in touch with Ayako. Embarrassed by the potential for her family’s wandering eyes to lock on to their correspondences, Ayako communicates to Mr. Amamiya through Man’yōshū, the oldest collection of Japanese poetry that still remains. The family studies their love letters, but they fail to reach a conclusive reading. It sounds supremely corny, but their deeply visualized way of communication feels like a precursor to texting. One characters even asks, “Is it really old fashioned (referring to the Man’yōshū referenced in the letter) or really modern?” Ayako doesn’t say much throughout the film, yet she manages to convey something crucial in these letters? And yet, we don’t know what it exactly is.

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This is the second film directed by Kinuyo Tanaka, and the second that I’ve managed to see. I hesitate to compare her to the male directors that made careers out of putting her in front of the camera because I find reductive. However, these were her filmmaking peers in the 1950s. Her understanding of design, both interior and exterior in relation to bodies is something that shows the influence of Naruse, but her own way of rendering this relationship is entirely unique and something that anticipate dominant trends in 1960s European arthouse films. The Moon Has Risen feels like the work of Ozu at times, but there are key moments that feel like something he couldn’t have done and I say that as someone who regards Ozu as the best ever. When Ayako and Mr. Amamiya walk along the garden, admiring the titular full moon, the camera follows them. They don’t do anything, but Tanaka’s observing of their bodies feel free and unforced. The performers, Ko Mishima and Yoko Sugi, have unlimited possibilities. Their slight hesitation is so simple, but it is so exciting.

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Okayo no kakugo / Oyako’s Preparedness (1939)

29 03 2015

There’s a simultaneous sense of difficulty and joy in writing about a filmmaker like Yasujiro Shimazu. It comes from the lack of literature about the filmmaker in general. It’s difficult because there’s no consensus discourse formed around his work, but there in lies the joy. The responsibility is great, but engaging with his films provides us the opportunity for us to establish a narrative. Frustration comes from the many holes we have in his career. As is the case, I hesitantly call this film an important departure from his 1938 effort So Goes Love. Like that film, a “light” comedy turns dark, but the political factors are more muted here. It’s an important change for Shimazu, and the role of his leading lady, the great Kinuyo Tanaka, positions an even greater career shift.

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Oyako is a live-in assistant at a dance academy.  She occupies the space of both a pupil and a professor, providing lessons, but also acting as something of a maid to the academy’s “master” (as she refers to her) Osumi. Shunsaku, a photographer, enters the studio one day to photograph the two. Oyako is visibly flustered by the appearance of such a handsome man. She can’t hide her blushing face, which is explained away by Shunsaku’s assertion that “cameras make young people blush.” While waiting for the development of the pictures, Shunsaku takes Oyako out to dinner. She’s completely smitten, but later overhears a conversation between Shunsaku’s mother and Osumi. He’s interested in marrying a complete different student at the academy.

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The economic hardships depicted in a film like So Goes Love are not completely eliminated here. For example, Oyako’s grocery shopping trip ends prematurely because of money. Income doesn’t drive the narrative here, love does. Oyako’s unrequited crush for Shunsaku is to be understood by us as a tough case of puppy love. Osumi herself explains the pain as being part of her youth. Age and experience makes us wiser about relationships, time allows us to reflect on past heartbreaks as something not so serious. Even if we cried uncontrollably, as Oyako does here, the privilege of hindsight allows us to even laugh about these earlier disappointments.

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Still, Oyako’s pain is registered as valid by Shimazu’s camera. For most of the film, his eye remains neutral. The tight spaces of dance academy almost seem to expand with his camera’s distance. However, he focuses in after Oyako gets her heart broken. He himself might take the position of Osumi, he suggests we all experience these unrequited crushes in our youth, but even then he understands that Oyako’s pain, in that moment, feels like the biggest tragedy ever. With this pain, she imagines herself delivering a powerful dance performance on a stage. It’s all captured in one take, then the film dissolves back to her in the dance academy. She collapses, the camera slowly pans in unison with a swelling soundtrack. The pans anticipates the presence of another body. Perhaps Shunsaku has returned to pronounce his love! The pan stops, but no body enters the space. The film ends.

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It is interesting that Oyako’s youth is stressed so frequently as the woman who plays her, Kinuyo Tanaka, was transitioning out of the “youthful” part of her career. Prior to the 1940s, Kinuyo Tanaka was a sex symbol. At the very least, her sexuality played a factor in her public persona. As the 40s rolled along, Tanaka’s image shifted. In A Hen in the Wind, she was the victim of spousal abuse in Ozu’s most violent film. Her collaborations with Mizoguchi, furthered this image of the enduring victim. Even in Life of Oharu, where she plays a sex worker, her own sexuality of no interest. The tragedy of the film is the sexuality of men violently imposed on her own body. Because of so many traumas, love itself triggers pain and anxiety. At a certain point, her face became indicative of endurance but unlovable. It’s an unfair arch that dominates the career of many women actors, but Oyako’s Preparedness should be commended for mapping this trajectory.

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Shindo: Zempen Akemi no maki / The New Road (1936)

10 11 2014

By nature of the accepted and limited discourse on Japanese film in the 1930s, this wonderful effort from Heinosuke Gosho becomes a film about modernity. This sounds like bad judgement on my part, situating the conversation on the film in something I identify to be the problem. However, there is something crucial in how the western world constructs an idea of modernity, especially when its averting its gaze on a country like Japan. As recently discussed in a post on Yasujiro Shimazu’s So Goes My Lovethe conversation on modernity is informed by an almost willful disregard for historical context, an engagement that only sees the modernity of a character as charismatic and exciting as Kinuyo Tanaka’s Akemi as society’s exception. She is “progressive” but further inspection shows us that she is not progressive in a way that would help inform a rhetoric of colonial intervention.

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Akemi is the oldest daughter of a rural but well-off family. She receives some pressure to continue dating a rather dull businessman, but as she hopelessly carries that doomed relationship, she’s really focusing on Ippei. The two enjoy long hikes in the mountains, an activity affordable for Ippei because he’s a business owner and part-time pilot. Meanwhile, Akemi’s cousin, Utako is busy harboring a crush of her own, an attractive young artist named Toru. He offers her a life that would escape her traditional upbringing, by moving the couple to the city and providing opportunities for visits to France. Toru’s own cosmopolitan schedule creates distance between the two, but Akemi is able to spot these developments as Toru taking advantage of Utako.

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It would be a mistake to talk about The New Road without bringing up the power of Kinuyo Tanaka’s performance as Akemi. Tanaka’s entire career is punctuated with roles that could be described in a similar way, but Gosho and screenwriter Kogo Noda (who frequently collaborated with Ozu, of course) cast her in an entirely new light. Instead of the suffering mother or the transcendent martyr who catapults the pain of Mizoguchi’s work. She’s bubbly here, full of energy, and her life, similarly, seems to be limitless. Of course, here’s where the reality of her character comes into play. Gosho’s world  seems to be populated by comfortably middle-class youths, the lack of perceived “melodramatic” elements here might be a function of Akemi’s own privilege. And yet, like Oharu, Tamaki, or any other Mizoguchi protagonist, Akemi still manages to wrestle with her place in society. Sure, she’s elevated by her economic standing, but within that, she is ignored by men who she intellectually towers over.

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To clarify, this is not a film about a smart woman casually accepting her place in the middle of dumb men maintaining their power. Everyone here, perhaps benefiting from their social standing, is  well-educated. More importantly, Akemi never falls into the structure of a conventional heterosexual relationship. Sure, she longs for and has feelings for Ippei, but even if one qualifies their interactions as dating, they’d have a hard time passing it off as typical courting. This is not Hollywood’s type of romantic comedy, where the woman, for whatever reason, has to use her wits to get an oaf to fall for her. Instead of becoming Japan’s Jean Arthur, Tanaka delivers a performance that is something new entirely. Within the two relationships depicted, she somehow manages to gain control. At the risk of selling Gosho’s visuals short, this is entirely Tanaka’s film and it is fueled by her excitement.

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Even as the witty woman, the one who has a leg up on the fellas, Akemi resists many of the cues of the modern woman. In truth, modernity can mean any number of incredibly vague things but critically, there is a preference to see these hints visually. Akemi doesn’t inhabit this limited construction of modernity because she’s not interested in the city, in the academic pursuits of her male peers, or the pictures of European actresses on the wall. In the film’s most memorable sequence, she scoffs and is genuinely unimpressed by a European woman whose framed visage is Ippei’s most prized decoration. Within seconds, she both embodies and perfectly dismisses the discourse that the west chooses to attach to their engagement with women in Japanese film. She doesn’t need to be like the west, the white, the “modern” she’s already above all of those things.

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Ginza keshô / Ginza Cosmetics (1951)

11 06 2014

1951 was an exciting year for Mikio Naruse. Months after Ginza Cosmetics, he would also complete Repast, ushering in a new chapter in his career. With these two films, he started making a different kind of film, not one ideologically divorced from his work in the 1930s, but one that took a different direction stylistically. I hesitate to use the terms observant or intimate because, although they have a positive connotation, their overuse and misuse have implications of a film that is visually flat, or crudely stitched together. Naruse’s style at the final part of his career showed the director at his confident and concise. While many called him stylistically “invisible” (including Akira Kurosawa in one sort of overused quote) I find this to be a mistake. Sure, it’s not as noticeable as his peers, but Naruse’s aesthetic was so deeply in tune with his ideas that it seems impossible for him to express them in this context without this so called “invisible” style.

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Yukiko Tsuji is an aging barmaid, but despite her age she’s still called upon to take care of her younger sister as well as her son. She tells her younger sister, with some sad acceptance in her face, of the way her heart was broken. “Most men are beasts” she adds. Later on, we see evidence to back up this claim. Around the bar, men endlessly make advances towards Yukiko who, yes, as a sex worker does have sex for money at times, but the environment in which she works is one that is constantly challenging her comfort. Her age and lack of money leaves Yukiko in a tough spot, her work is tied to her youth and physical appearance while that work itself is still not enough to pay for the expenses that are necessary for something as simple as staying alive.

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It’s not the most unique idea to suggest that Naruse’s films about ultimately about money. His protagonists, almost all of whom are women, are sandwiched by being women and being poor. That sounds like these are two separate forces, but in Naruse’s world and the one we actually live in, these two oppressed status actually work together, influence each other, and ultimately have a relationship that makes one inseparable from the other. Some might call Naruse’s work superficial because it is about money, but most of life is superficial then. It’s not “materialistic” to be concerned about money when surviving is at stake. Perhaps then, it would be more accurate to describe his films as not being about money, but self-preservation.

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Yukiko is played by Kinuyo Tanaka, who is most famous for her collaborations with Kenji Mizoguchi. She’s always wonderful in a Mizoguchi film (or anybody’s film for that matter) but I honestly prefer her here. There’s a quiet resignation in her performance, though I think Yukiko is not one who has given up. Instead, she’s accepted reality, an admittedly harsh one that seems set to both scrutinize her behavior and want to benefit from it. The men in the film joke about the “standards” of the women they interact with, yet have no problem in continuing in hanging around them. They seem oblivious to their moral dishonesty, but it has the dynamic in sexwork changed much? Naruse (like Ozu) hasn’t made a film critiquing Japan’s old-fashioned morals (which is how so many western critics frame it) but instead the racist, patriarchal society that we inhabit today.

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After seeing Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin a few months ago, I remarked on twitter that it beyond all of its modern stylization, it actually came from the same place as most of Naruse’s work. To be short, I think Glazer’s “science-fiction” film is actually obviously about the horror of being a woman in a public space. It’s scifi context gives some justification for a male audience that weirdly enough, might have a better time understanding the discomfort of an alien over an actual living woman. Naruse’s work doesn’t have this context, of course, but it does give us the same experience. One that supports Yukiko’s claim that all men are beast. While trying to pay back a fine, she asks for help from a wealthy businessmen. The overwhelmingly polite man slowly becomes more and more forward and aggressive until he finally gets Yukiko alone in an abandoned garage. He’s only considered her status as a sex worker and not her status as a human being, which is why he seems genuinely upset and confused when she runs away.

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There’s an IMDB review of Ginza Cosmetics that mentions, in passing, that the men in Naruse’s films are generally weak. I wouldn’t disagree, though I would add that they are indicative of the reality. “Weak” not in the sense that they’re under-written but instead that in Naruse’s world they are indeed the peripheral, which is seldom the case in most films, arthouse or not. In Naruse’s Flowing (1956) the men seem to only arrive when they’re imposing on the geisha house that the film revolves around. There’s a similar sensation here that the men, when they are present, are imposing on the lives of women. Humanism is overused in describing film and usually applied to filmmakers who try to make all of their characters equal but by making the marginalized individuals the center, I’d argue that he’s more humanist. Not that it’s a contest.

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Musashino fujin / The Lady of Musashino (1951)

3 06 2014

What makes a protagonist for a Kenji Mizoguchi film? For starters, one needs to be a woman, preferably a struggling one. This doesn’t sound too complicated, we need someone who can express years of pain and disappointment in simple facial tics? Yes, Kinuyo Tanaka is perfect for the part. This might sound like me being glib or reductive, but it is part of the filmmaker’s DNA. None of this is a problem to me, as his fellow countrymen, Ozu and Naruse, made films of a similar ilk during the 1950s, but the one reservation I still have about Mizoguchi and will continue to have about him is why he must turn his women into martyrs. Sure, yes, a patriarchal society is to blame, but the insistence on sacrifices leads me to believe that there’s actually something quite troubling working underneath his art.

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Michiko Akiyama is stuck in a loveless marriage to her husband and professor, Tadao. The two exist at two opposing ends, Michiko loyal and committed to the moral code of the past. Tadao, on the other hand, is unapologetic about his the west’s influence on him. In his classes, he teaches a “theory” that suggests that adultery is inevitable and logical, all to the delight of a giggling group of women who are obviously impressed by his charm and good looks. Tsutomu enters the picture, a young man eager to escape the city and the “amoral women” he associates himself with there. Upon arriving in Musashino, he finds the pure woman he’s looking for in Michiko. Yet, the thing that makes her attractive is part of what keeps the two from being together.

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The setup here, which comes from a Shohei Ooka is actually quite concise and economical. The story gives us a woman and a man in a unsatisfactory marriage, yet we only see pressures and responsibilities held up against one of them. That would be Michiko, of course. Her father tells her early on that she’s responsible for keeping the community of Musashino and the family name alive. Tadao receives no similar scrutiny, and in fact, we’re not entirely sure he cares the slightest bit about the actual relationship. While he doesn’t care for Michiko, the burden will be placed on her if they’re not able to reproduce. Of course, because they can’t stand each other, this is not even close to a possibility.

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The always wonderful Masayuki Mori plays Tadao here, and he manages to breathe some life into a character who is intentionally underwritten. The problem here is that his “badness” is so one dimensional that the dynamic never also for something more realistic. Also in 1951, he was Mikio Naruse’s Repast, where he was also a negligent husband. Naruse’s film, coming from the pen of the great Fumiko Hayashi, gives a balance to the relationship that still manages to illustrate the power dynamic. I’m not arguing for something more “subtle” just because it’s better storytelling, but also because this aforementioned power dynamic often manifests in situations where it not be as so clear and obvious as it is in The Lady of Musashino.

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All of this is a bit more forgivable when one considers that Mizoguchi often wore his politics on his sleeves, yet I think my other problem with the film is that he’s really not as clear as he should be. One sequence gives us Michiko and Tsutomu walking along a beautiful river, which Tsutomu tells us was the location of a sex worker’s suicide. This folk tale is told in passing and seemingly isn’t meant to add much beyond the suggestion of something mythical. Ultimately, I’m finding myself placing a lot of Mizoguchi’s own work on that same plane. There’s a few exceptions (Flame of My Love and Street of Shame come to mind, but there are others) but mostly his sacrificial women are obscured by the mythos of their storyteller. Mizoguchi achieved visual poetry often, but instead of expanding on the pathos of his characters, in films like Mushashino, he seems to minimize their plight and reduce his women to tragic individuals whose stories we’re to tell over a camp fire.

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Koibumi / Love Letters (1953)

25 02 2014

While Kinuyo Tanaka is one of the most celebrated figures of Japanese cinema in the west, her role has only been represented to us as a performer. Her tragedies with Kenji Mizoguchi, such as Sansho the Bailiff and Ugetsu, are well-regarded as classics, but they only represent a small part of her career. The “Bette Davis of Japan” had been working since as an actress in the 1930s, and she wasn’t always tasked with playing the sacrificing maternal figures that Mizoguchi saw of her. In the 1950s, she began her career as a director herself. A Keisuke Kinoshita screenplay certainly isn’t the most promising element for a film, but Tanaka brilliantly underscores his usually schmaltzy currents. The result is one of the most brilliant debuts in all of cinema and unfortunately, its mostly forgotten.

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Still feelings the affects of the war and the American occupation, Reikichi Mayumi struggles to make ends meet. He picks up a job writing love letters, a large majority of his customers are Japanese sex workers, trying to contact the American men who loved them during the occupation. Reikichi’s experience with translation makes him a perfect fit for the job, but one day, he comes in to contact with Michiko, the woman he loved before he was sent off to war. The war years were not particularly kind to her either, and the feelings the two once shared for each other seem to cause nothing but problems.

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The screenplay here comes from the pen of one Keisuke Kinoshita. A filmmaker who, if you’ve paid any attention to this blog, I am not particularly fond of. Kinoshita’s films are beautiful, yet stupid, and hopelessly maudlin. The same kind of impulse works its way in here, but it is probably worth noting that Kinoshita’s screenplay is based on a Fumio Niwa novel. I’ve not read any of Niwa’s work, but the films that came from his work, Battle of Roses and The Angry Street seem to be in made in the same spirit as Kinoshita’s work, and both of those films were directed by otherwise masterful Mikio Naruse. Taking all of this into account, Tanaka carried a heavy load on this, her very first film. There’s an undeniable mopey, “sadboy” quality to the film’s protagonist, Reikichi, but even as Tanaka observes and registers his sadness, she does not make it the central point in her film.

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Reikichi’s profession, a love letter writer, may remind one of the lead protagonist’s occupation in Spike Jonze’s Her. At the risk of being harsh, I’ll also be brief but Jonze’s film uses that setup for his one simplistic, male-driven, self-inflicted “heartbreak” fantasy. Tanaka’s film, which I think is important to note as “forgotten” does indulge in the male character’s sadness but the film does not meander it through it like thick, gooey emotional honey. Instead, she cuts through it and focuses on something far more interesting and heartbreaking: the status of Japanese women and their bodies during the American occupation. Sure, Reikichi being single but writing love letters for other people is ironic and heartbreaking, but not nearly as much as writing English love letters as a Japanese woman to an American soldier.

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The relationship between the Americans and Japanese during the occupation is one that has yet to be explored in film, at least to my knowledge, but Tanaka’s film begins to chip away at the power structure that it erected. She wasn’t the only Japanese filmmaker in the 1950s to depict sex work, but importantly, she was the only woman. I’ll celebrate someone like Naruse for having the most fair and respectful portrait of such a profession, but his male status does mean that he himself never suffered from the power dynamic that is involved in such work. Tanaka’s tenderness to her women rivals Naruse’s, and is of course levels beyond what Mizoguchi was depicting at the same time. A film like The Life of Oharu examines the oppression involved in a patriarchial society, but it does so exclusively through sex work. This isolating insists that such an oppression might be tied to women’s voluntary involvement in the profession. Tanaka’s film illuminates us to oppression, but she does not see this gendered power dynamic as being informed by sex work. Instead, the existence of sex work being influenced by the power structure. To say this in a less complicated way, Mizoguchi tortures his characters and makes them martyrs, Tanaka allows them space to roam, to discover this restriction of spaces on their own.

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Late in the film, Reikichi scolds Michiko for both her upper-class status and her lack of class consciousness. In this sequence, another tool of oppression in a capitalist society is given attention. The film later reveals that this image of Michiko as an upper-class woman is false and following the war, she too did sex work. The conversation is interesting because it is the only one that positions Reikichi as the oppressed. The fact that this is not the reality should say something about the other tools of oppression, the fact that they’re all linked even when one’s identity doesn’t reflect all of them. Reikichi is an honorable character but again, Tanaka does not afford him any easy pass. His profession as a love letter is founded on the need for (presumably impoverished) sex workers to make contact with the Americans who left him. His wistfulness and fantasies about Michiko could not even exist without this setup. Their romance, indeed a failed and tragic one, is only lived on the backs of laborers. He can take his own sermon on class to heart, he makes money from those “beneath him.”

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The political potential in Tanaka’s debut is staggering, but it isn’t the end of the film’s merits. Its parallel on colonialism and sexism is relevant, even today, and is enough to make the film required viewing. Interwoven with all of this is a heartache of a melodrama. Sure, Reikichi and Michiko’s lost love is contextualized by the structures briefly touched on above, but it does not dilute their sadness. If anything, they work together in providing the dissolving factor in their relationship. Like her countrymen, Ozu and Naruse, Tanaka has made a film that is political because it is personal and vice versa. What it says about life is not restricted to “traditional Japanese society” (an Orientalist construct), it resonates in contemporary, western society as well.

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