Saturday, August 12, 2017

Record of a Tenement Gentleman

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and written by Ozu and Tadao Ikeda, Record of a Tenement Gentleman is the story of a woman who reluctantly takes care of a boy who has been abandoned as she is helped by friends during the era of post-war Japan. The film is among one of the first post-war film in Japan that explains the struggle of daily life as a boy is lost as he copes with his abandonment and the care of a woman who initially wanted nothing to do with him. Starring Chishu Ryu, Chouko Iida, Reikichi Kawamura, and Hohi Aoki. Record of a Tenement Gentleman is an intimate yet touching film from Yasujiro Ozu.

The film revolves around the postwar life as a man comes home with a homeless boy who had been abandoned as the woman living at the house reluctantly takes him in. It’s a film with a simple story as it play into a woman living with two men as they struggle to make ends meet in rural Tokyo as one of them finds a boy who is lost as they have no idea what to do. The film’s screenplay doesn’t go for anything dramatic except in its second half as it’s more about this woman in O-tane (Chouko Iida) trying to sell things with the help of a street fortune teller in Tashiro (Chishu Ryu) and a repairman in Tamekichi (Reikichi Kawamura). Tashiro would be the one to find this boy named Kohei (Hohi Aoki) whose father had presumably abandoned him to find work in Tokyo. Tashiro and Tamekichi want to help but they feel that the boy is better suited in the care of O-tane who isn’t so sure if she is able to take care of him as she is frustrated with his stubbornness and the fact that he wets the futon he sleeps on. Still, she would grow to care for the boy as well as wonder where his father is and did he abandon his son on purpose.

Yasujiro Ozu’s direction definitely maintains that air of intimacy throughout the film as well as the fact that he eschews any form of style to create something that is simple and direct. While there are a few camera movements for a scene set on the beach, Ozu’s direction is often placed with some wide and medium shots for much of the film with very few close-ups as it’s all about the simple static shot. Ozu’s approach to compositions in the way he puts an actor into a frame as well as creating that sense of drama as it relates to O-tane’s relationship with Kohei who doesn’t say much throughout the film. The direction also play into moments where O-tane, Tashiro, and Tamekichi are having dinner with neighbors who had won some money from a lottery as it promises a sense of hope during this time of rebuilding. Yet, it’s something O-tane would want but she is forced to contend with reality as it relates to Kohei and his lack of education and social skills as she would be forced to make some realizations about the boy. Especially as Kohei would fulfill something O-tane had lost years ago as Kohei is in need of someone to guide him. Overall, Ozu crafts a very tender yet evocative film about a woman taking in an abandoned boy in postwar Japan.

Cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it play into the gorgeous exteriors of the beaches in rural Tokyo with some lighting for some of the interior scenes at night. Editor Yoshi Sugihara does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward to play into the dramatic elements of the film as well as some of the dramatic tension between O-tane and Kohei. Art director Tatsuo Hamada, with set decorators Shotaro Hashimoto and Mototsugu Komaki, does fantastic work with the look of the home of O-tane as well as some of the places around the neighborhood that is in ruin.

Costume designer Taizo Saito does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly straightforward including the tattered clothes of Kohei. The sound work of Yoshisaburo Senoo does terrific work with the sound as it is play into the natural setting of the locations as well as create something that isn’t totally artificial with the sound effects. The film’s music by Ichiro Saito is superb for its somber yet enchanting score filled with string instruments and lush orchestration to play into the drama as it’s a highlight of the film.

The film’s amazing cast feature some notable small roles from Takeshi Sakamoto as a friendly neighbor, Eiko Takamatsu as the neighbor’s wife, Taiji Tonoyama as a photographer, Hideko Mimura as Tamekichi’s daughter Yukiko, and Eitaro Ozawa as Kohei’s father. Hohi Aoki is superb as Kohei as a seven-year old boy who is quite sensitive and very quiet as he struggles with being abandoned by his father. Chishu Ryu is excellent as Toshiro as the street fortune teller who would find Kohei as he laments over what would happen to the boy. Mitsuko Yoshikawa is fantastic as Kiku as a friend of O-tane who is intrigued about Kohei as well as showing some kindness for the boy. Reikichi Kawamura is brilliant as Tamekuchi as a pot/pans mender who would watch over Kohei as well as expressing concern over how he would be treated. Finally, there’s Chouko Iida in a remarkable performance as O-tane as a widowed woman who sells anything she has in a poor part of Tokyo as she copes with taking care of a boy she isn’t fond of initially only to see the sadness in the boy.

Record of a Tenement Gentleman is a marvelous film from Yasujiro Ozu. Featuring a great cast, a compelling story, and dazzling visuals, the film is definitely a low-key yet engrossing drama that explores postwar life and how a woman would watch over a young boy abandoned by his own father. In the end, Record of a Tenement Gentleman is a sensational film from Yasujiro Ozu.

Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) – (Days of Youth) – Tokyo Chorus - I Was Born, But... - (Dragnet Girl) – Passing Fancy – (A Mother Should Be Loved) – A Story of Floating Weeds - (An Inn in Tokyo) – (The Only Son) – (What Did the Lady Forget?) – (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) – (There Was a Father) – (A Hen in the Wind) – Late Spring - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) – Tokyo Story - Early Spring - Tokyo Twilight – (Equinox Flower) – Good Morning - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - The End of SummerAn Autumn Afternoon

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