Monday, June 01, 2009

Ito, Yamanaka, Inagaki, Hou -- and pleasant fluff

Oatsurae Jirokichi goshi / Jirokichi the Rat (Daisuke Ito, 1931)

Denjiro OKochi plays the title character -- a master thief from Tokyo on the lam in Osaka. He gets entangled there with the travails of two women -- the sister of a thuggish barber (and yakuza boss) and the daughter of a disgraced (and dying) samurai. The action sequences are stunning -- and the perforances and story are equaly fine. A masterpiece..

Kochiyama Soshun (Sadao Yamanaka, 1936)

Another masterpiece -- this one featuring Chojuro Kawarasaki as an ultimately noble criminal, Soshun Kochiyama -- a sort of urban Robin Hood in 18th century Tokyo. Kochiyama gets into trouble trying to protect an innocent street vendor (Setsuko Hara in her first major role, 15 or 16 years old) who is imperiled due to the misdeeds of her juvenile delinquent brother.

Muhomatsu no issho / The Life of Matsu the Untamed (Hiroshi Inagaki, 1943)

Tsumasaburo Bando (one of Japan's first grat action movie stars) appears as a good-hearted (if undisciplined) rickshaw driver in love with a young widow (and devoted to her young son) who he could never hope to marry due to his inferior status. More sentimetal than the Ito and Yamanaka films above, but still wonderful.

Ni luo he nu er / Daughter of the Nile (HOU Hsiao Hsien, 1987)

This HHH film is possibly his most neglected "mature" work, though I can't realy figure out why. It prefigures Millennium Mambo in some ways, focusing the travails of a young woman. A very fine film.

Uchôten hoteru / Suite Dreams literally more like Seventh Heaven Hotel (Koki Mitani, 2006)

Enjoyable fluff that is a bit reminiscent of Fawlty Towers, with some nods to Grand Hotel. Koji Yakushi (as the nuber three executive at a luxury hotel) leads a huge all-star cast in this story of an eventful New Years Eve at a bustling hotel. Not much to speak of cinematically here, but very entertaining.

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