YESTERDAY IN JAPAN, TODAY IN THE U.S.A.

Record of a Tenement Gentleman
Yasujiro Ozu
1947

The not very prosperous people living in the tenement all know each other and live amicably together.  A widow in the group reluctantly takes in a rather exasperating but ultimately loveable homeless boy.  She tries to return him to his father in a nearby town, but the father has disappeared.  SPOILER ALERT:  She finally becomes attached to the boy only to lose him when his father reappears and calls to claim him.  There follows a remarkable scene in which two of the male tenants talk with her about what has happened.  One of them is played by Chishu Ryu.  As the conversation develops, with the widow determined to show no grief, he becomes aware of her suffering about giving up the boy.  He does not make a gesture or speak a word.  His face alone registers his understanding and compassion.  It is a great moment in film acting, another great moment for Chishu Ryu and for his director Ozu.

In an earlier scene, at a small tenement party, Chishu Ryu, who plays the assistant to a puppeteer, is asked by his fellow men and women lodgers to sing a familiar song they used to hear him sing at performances.  It is catchy and rhythmic with a Western beat.  Signing it he is a quiet, restrained and decidedly sexy beast.

Record of a Tenement Gentleman was one of a series shown at the Cleveland, Ohio Cinematheque in September and October, a series titled “Rarely Seen Gems of Japanese Cinema.”  Presentation of the films was a collaboration of Cinematheque director John Ewing and Dr, Linda Erlich of Case Western Reserve Universiy.  Ewing’s program notes acknowledge assistance as well from several agencies and individuals.

Rick’s Journal  (MY FILM CAREER)

To the Wonder
Terrence Malik
2013

–  Why did Ben Affleck want to be in this movie?
–  Just what is his character’s job?  Why is the environmental impact of his work in the script?
–  Why does Marina like him?  What’s between them besides sex?  She characterizes him as not liking deep feelings.  Is she correct?
–  Why do we never learn anything more than we do about anybody?  I would like to have known a lot more about the dulcimer maker  —  but more about the major characters, too.  And why is there a priest in the story?
–  To the Wonder is overlong, arty, pretentious and self-indulgent.  The reviews I read wrote about the lack of dialogue.  I didn’t know they meant lack of dialogue you could hear.  Everyone was yapping all the time  —  inaudibly.  But, wow!  Did the birds chirp.
I invite comments from my readers.

NEXT FRIDAY POST DECEMBER 13 — “Ingrid Bergman”

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

One thought on “YESTERDAY IN JAPAN, TODAY IN THE U.S.A.

  1. Hi Rick. I’m a new reader. I visit the Cinematheque regularly and saw your card there. I’m glad to find someone else writing about what’s screening locally.

    As for your question regarding Affleck’s role as a technician in To The Wonder: I think his character is a kind of scientist, both in occupation and in love. He’s always gauging and probing his environment for what he can hear, see and test. His company is polluting the soils and all he can do is measure the pollution. His failure in love, I think, is analogous: he can’t read Marina’s love for him into Marina’s love. One of her soliloquies illuminates this fundamentally interpretive/subjective element of love, I think.

    “What is this love that loves us?
    That comes from nowhere?
    From all around?
    The sky.
    You, cloud.
    You love me, too.”

    To Neil, and any good scientist, a cloud is just a cloud.

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