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Kokyô / Home From the Sea

Kokyô / Home from the Sea (1972)

Only a Japanese and Chinese DVD exist I think. Once again English people I'm disappointed

Director: Yamada Yôji
Writers: Miyazaki Akira, Yamada Yôji
Date: 1972

Genre: Drama
Description: Dumping rocks into the sea, the times they are a-changing, tradition, ordinary life, the importance of work, home

Cast: Igawa Hisashi, Baisho Chieko, Ryu Chishu, Maeda Gin, Ito Mayumi, Atsumi Kiyoshi, Ito Chiaki

Crew of note: Music by Satô Masaru

Runtime: 101 mins.
Color: Color

Seichi and Minko are a husband and wife, captain and engineer team working a boat in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. They collect rocks from construction sites in the area, and dump them into the ocean with their rusty fickle ship. As Japan continues to develop its post-War economy, bigger businesses are opening up in the region, putting their livelihood in danger. Despite all his efforts, Seichi, proud of his work as a boat captain, is having difficulties making ends meet. His brother-in-law offers to introduce him to a shipping company in nearby Onomichi, but Seichi is hesitant; is he ready to uproot his family and move on, give up his work, his boat, and his home?

Kokyô / Home from the Sea (1972)

Not a shipwreck. That's actually their boat.

In the West, Yamada Yôji = Tasogare seibei / Twilight Samurai. This is inevitable, because its pretty much the only Yamada film to get much acclaim, to get any screen time outside of Japan. Actually, Tasogare Seibei isn’t even what Yamada is known for in his homeland. There, he is known as the director of Tora-san, a film series about some lovable oaf that went on for 48 films and 25 years. You really can’t be blamed if you’re surprised that Tasogare Seibei is his 70th or so film. Yikes.

Once starting his journey with Tora-san, Yamada films outside the series became somewhat infrequent, at least, compared with his amazing output for it. One of these, and perhaps one of his most memorable, is Kokyô / Home From the Sea. By the 70s, many of the most popular directors were either part of the Japanese New Wave movement or made Kaiju-eiga or Yakuza-eiga. Even pinku-eiga directors were more popular during the 70s. Traditionalists, concerned with the state of old, rural Japan, in presenting it as it is without the embellishments of Marxist theory or fancy film techniques, were, to my knowledge, not quite as common, or at least not as well known. But films like these, about the changing world and persons and families trying to keep up, are timeless; you could transport this tale to today or 60 years ago, and it would still be true, still be significant.

I always find these chronicles of small struggles–small according to the writers of epics and history books anyway–fascinating. At worst they are uneventful, generic and inconsequential. But at their best, they can be moving, unique yet familiar, and very very powerful.

Kokyô / Home from the Sea (1972)

In Japan, engineers are allowed to be cute

What I loved most about this movie is how elegantly it traces the difficulties of arriving at a decision. Where most films would focus on what happens after a decision is made–in comedy, a success, in tragedy, a failure–Yamada stops at the choice itself. The result, it seems, is not quite as important, not quite as valuable as the decision to endeavor. It’s not a cliffhanger or a truncated and incomplete story, as many of those used to more traditional story-telling, where the outcome is the true prize of the narrative, will feel. It isn’t to say that the outcome is irrelevant, of course it’s relevant, but it is how Seichi and his family come to their decision, and what they decide, that is truly meaningful here.

I like blood, bombs and boobs as much as the next guy, but there is also something to be gained from this kind of movie. It might not be entertainment, it might not be arousal, but there is a kind of satisfaction that I don’t think the English language quite understands, is quite capable of expressing. In Japanese, there is such a thing as “mono no aware”, which I wouldn’t deign to translate or explain, but it is present in movies like this. I can’t say that I completely understand it yet, I doubt many people from anywhere do, but after seeing many great films like this, I feel like it starting to become something familiar, something I love.

things to take note of
The boat and how they work it
The relationships in the family
Ryu Chishu in a post-Ozu role. he looks.. really old?

best moment
The last day before doing what they decided
Slow motion rocks

why you should watch this
Dumping rocks in the sea will never look this beautiful or be this touching

Kokyô / Home from the Sea (1972)

Or be this dangerous!

rating: 8.3

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

similar movies, maybe:
Dude, I gots tons of reviews about ordinary life already.




February 2019
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