Friday, May 10, 2019

Passing Fancy

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and screenplay by Tadao Ikeda from a story by Ozu, Dekigokoro (Passing Fancy) is the story of a two co-workers who both meet a young woman looking for a place to living as it would later cause problems. The film is a silent drama that explore two men who both find themselves falling for this young woman as it would later cause trouble in their friendship. Starring Takeshi Sakamoto, Nobuko Fushimi, Den Obinata, Chouko Iida, and Chishu Ryu. Dekigokoro is an interesting yet lightweight film from Yasujiro Ozu.

The film revolves around a love-triangle between two co-workers at a brewery over a young woman they met at a theater as they both try to pursue her in their own ways only for things to get troubling as the son of one of the co-workers isn’t fond of his father’s pursuit for this woman. It’s a film with a simple premise although screenwriter Tadao Ikeda creates a narrative that doesn’t really do much to flesh out the relationships and characters. Notably as the first act is about the friendship between Kihachi (Takeshi Sakamoto) and Jiro (Den Obinata) as they attend a rokyoku play with Kihachi’s son Tomio (Tokkan Kozo) where they would meet the destitute young woman Harue (Nobuko Fushimi). Harue would get a job working for a restaurant owner in Otome (Chouko Iida) as Kihachi would pursue Harue slowly though Jiro isn’t fond of her which is a front as he secretly is in love with her leading to all sorts of problems. Even as Tomio doesn’t seem fond of Harue due to his grief towards his mom as the script doesn’t really do much to play into the drama as it tries to put in some humor where some of it doesn’t work.

Yasujiro Ozu’s direction is quite simple in its compositions though it wouldn’t feature the restrained and extremely simplistic style that he would be known for in his later films. Still, there are some gorgeous compositions that Ozu would create in its close-ups and medium shots where he gets a look at a certain location or room but also in capturing some of the emotional aspects of the film. The film does have Ozu use dolly-tracking shots to get a view of a certain location or environment as it’s one of the few moments of Ozu moving the camera as it help play into some of the drama and humor. Though the story’s lack of a strong plot and moments where the story meanders would slow things down to a sluggish pace. Ozu is able to maintain that sense of realism as it relates to the drama as it relates to events in the third act involving Tomio. Notably as it help bring some revelation to some characters as well as a sense of duty despite Kihachi’s own illiteracy. Overall, Ozu crafts a compelling although underwhelming film about two men vying for a destitute young woman.

Cinematographer Hideo Shigehara does amazing work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it play into some of the interiors including how a restaurant or a home is lit as well as the natural approach to photography for some of the daytime exteriors. Editor Kazuo Ishikawa does terrific work with the editing in creating some straightforward cuts despite its sluggish pacing due to the story’s lack of plot. Set decorator Yonekazu Wakita does excellent work with the look of Kihachi’s home that he shares with his son and Jiro as well as the restaurant that Harue would work at. The film’s music by Donald Sosin from a 2008 restored edition is brilliant for its piano-based music that is common in silent films as it help play into the humor as well as some somber pieces in the dramatic moments of the film.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles from Ozu regular Chishu Ryu as a boat passenger at the end of the film, Chouko Iida as the restaurant owner Otome, and Tokkan Kozuo as Kihachi’s son Tomio who has a hard time dealing with his father’s love of alcohol and the attention towards Harue. Nobuku Fushimi is fantastic as Harue as a young woman seeking work as she finds herself in a love triangle though she enjoys her time with Kihachi while is confused about Jiro’s behavior. Den Onibata is superb as Jiro as a young brewer who is intrigued by Harue though he isn’t initially fond of her as he tries to get work but also do what he can to help Kihachi despite issues he would have with him over Harue. Finally, there’s Takeshi Sakamoto in a brilliant performance as Kihachi as a widower who is trying to watch over his young son as he also deals with his feelings for Harue and uncertainty in trying to find work and his friendship with Jiro.

Dekigokoro is a good although meandering film from Yasujiro Ozu. While it features some good performances, nice visuals, and a terrific music score, it’s a film that anyone interested in Ozu would seek out as one of his earlier silent films that is available. Even if it doesn’t provide enough plot or intrigue in comparison to other films. In the end, Dekigokoro is a fine but unfulfilling film from Yasujiro Ozu.

Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) – (Days of Youth) – Tokyo Chorus - I Was Born, But... - (Dragnet Girl) – (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) – Record of a Tenement Gentleman - (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 (1959 film) - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - The End of SummerAn Autumn Afternoon

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