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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.

Soshun / Early Spring

Soshun / Early Spring (1956)

What everyone else is thinking: 'Booze now friendship later'

Director: Ozu Yasujiro
Writers: Noda Kogo, Ozu Yasujiro
Date: 1956

Genre: Drama
Description: Family drama, Corporate life sucks, marriage is hard, a bitchy mistress, saving your marriage, broken dreams and a boring life, starting over

Cast: Ikebe Ryo, Awashima Chikage, Kishi Keiko, Fujino Takako, Ryu Chishu, Yamamura So, Sugimura Haruko, Miyake Kuniko, Kato Daisuke

Crew of note:

Runtime: 144 mins.
Color: BW

Sugiyama Shoji and Masako, a childless married couple, are stuck in lifeless, dull relationship dictated by Shoji’s salaryman job. He takes his wife for granted, and begins an affair with a woman working in the same building named Chiyo (nicknamed Goldfish). At the same time, his boss asks him to transfer to a remote province in Japan in order to further his career.

Ah, the banality of corporate life. Though this is no salaryman movie, Ozu chooses to say much about this phenomenon by focusing on its effects on married life. Though the plot is nothing new, it is difficult to argue that anyone can create characters as compelling and real as Ozu. Shoji’s stoicism to and detachment from his wife, his work, and even his mistress tells one that he is not just the bored salaryman. Though the lifeless nature of the couple’s relationship seems a little exaggerated, though understandable, it is thanks to the performances, of Awashima especially, that the characters are made memorable.

Ozu puts his camera to good effect, filling frames with character upon nameless character to show the a-dime-a-dozen nature of work (the side of the office building with anons at the start is genius). The pictures also shine with so many noticeable frames within frames, and the very geometric still shots allude to the rigidity and stiffness of corporate life.

Although many will say that the movie is fatalistic and sad, I disagree. This happens to be one of Ozu’s most pleasant, and truly speaks of the strength of marriage. Yes, there is that prevailing sense of being “stuck within the system” (be it political or social), but the characters do end up the better. Yes, this is life, but you can try to make the most of it, and enjoy it, even in minor degrees.

Arguably uneventful for those uninitiated to this kind of cinema, but reserve this for latter viewing, for when you’ve come to enjoy movies described as Ozu-esque. Then, you will love this film.

things to take note of
The many frames within frames
The moments when the camera moves

best moment
Ozu shoots Ms. Awashima in the dark of their living room from his favorite angle

why you should watch this
It’s Ozu, duh. A pretty rare ending for Ozu though, if you’ve seen more of his films. One of his most pleasant and one of his best framed.

rating: 8

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

similar movies, maybe:
Meshi / Repast
Yama no oto / Sound of the Mountain



November 2020