Kyojin to gangu / Giants and Toys

Kyojin to gangu / Giants and Toys (1958)

Warning: movies does not include giants, aliens, or chicks vaporizing dudes with ray guns

Director: Masumura Yasuzo
Writers: Ken Kaiko, Shirasaka Yoshio
Date: 1958

Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Description: Greed, humanity and dignity, working your ass off, Japanese business world, killing yourself to get ahead, Caramel candies, publicity, becoming famous, pop imagery

Cast: Kawaguchi Hiroshi, Nozoe Hitomi, Takamatsu Hideo, Ito Yunosuke, Ono Michiko, Sazanka Kyu, Shin Kinzo

Crew of note:

Runtime: 95 mins.
Color: Color

Goda, quick-rising ad exec for World Caramel, takes Nishi under his wing as they hatch a plan to boost World’s candy sales. He spots Kyoko, an innocent working girl with an unmistakable smile, and sets up to make her famous. Their two rival companies, Apollo and Giant, also embark on their own marketing campaigns, and an ad war ensues. Using the now famous Kyoko as their star, World launch a Space theme to sell their candies. Personal interests, greed, and an obsession for success cloud everyone’s judgment, desperate to make it in the cruel world of candy marketing.

A better translation may be “big people and toys”, and it’s easy to recognize that it’s certainly a great title after watching the film (clue: what/who is the toy?). A really tough and brutal depiction of the Japanese business world, in fact all cut-throat business, but it decidedly has no bad guys; the system is at fault and everyone is a bit player stuck without an escape plan. There are really no protagonists either, as everyone is shown as playing within the system, in their own ways, trying to get ahead. Even the innocent Kyoko and the idealistic Nishi are helpless to fight against the tide.

One of the most interesting aspects of the movie is its focus on tons of pop symbols, such as the rayguns, the airplanes, the spaceships, the candy commercials, the alien space suits, etc, there are too many to count. Kyoko even sings a jazz song about cannibalism. Capitalism, materialism, consumerism.. all these isms are appropriately and adequately symbolized. There’s even the inevitable ulcer.

This plain story filled with many ups and downs works because it isn’t preachy, and it doesn’t try to be smart. It is what it is, and you can’t help but feel like you’re stuck somewhere yourself.The lighter montages were at first a little weird, but well conceived and maybe even meaningful. A movie that perfectly captures its milieu and predicts the course of its country, wrapped in tiny amounts of hopefulness. The ending is fatalistic, but that smile might win some over. Often considered to be way ahead of its time.

A little heavy, and it’ll make you want to skip work in the morning, but as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.

things to take note of
Ito Yunosuke (the photog) is… creepy

best moment
Montages with the broken lighter. Weird.

why you should watch this
Watch this if you want some motivation to quit your job. Or because it’s a good movie.
Lots of pop imagery that you probably won’t remember, unless you were a kid at the time of the film

rating: 8

Plot: B+
Cast: B
Cinematography: B
Music: B
Entertainment: B

similar movies, maybe:
Other Masumura, like Black Test Car. Maybe.