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Street Without End (1934)

Kagirinaki hodô (original title)
On her way to meet her boyfriend, Sugiko is hit by a car and hospitalized. When she doesn't arrive at the meeting place, her boyfriend believes she has betrayed him, and he returns to his ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Setsuko Shinobu ...
Akio Isono ...
Koichi, her younger brother
Hikaru Yamanouchi ...
Hiroshi Yamanouchi
Nobuko Wakaba ...
Takako, his elder sister
Ayako Katsuragi ...
Shin'ichi Himori ...
Shinkichi Yamamura
Chiyoko Katori ...
Kesako Nakane
Ichirô Yûki ...
Machio Harada
Yukiko Inoue ...
Yoshiko Hisayama
Fujiko Matsuzono ...
Her friend
Reikô Tani ...
Butler
Kôji Mitsui ...
Guest (at café) (as Hideo Mitsui)
Shozaburo Abe ...
Bartender
Tomio Aoki ...
Bellboy (as Tokkan Kozô)
Takeshi Sakamoto ...
Guest for portrait painter
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Storyline

On her way to meet her boyfriend, Sugiko is hit by a car and hospitalized. When she doesn't arrive at the meeting place, her boyfriend believes she has betrayed him, and he returns to his hometown. Yamauchi, the man who was driving the car that hit her, proposes to her. Sugiko marries Yamauchi, but is bored with his family's lifestyle. She leaves him and goes back to work as a waitress. Written by Anonymous

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26 April 1934 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

La rue sans fin  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Broken symmetries, Mt. Fuji
27 February 2012 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

The top layer here is about a modern life of movies and automobiles that is still under rigorous control of feudal structures. A waitress in a café is groomed to be a movie actress but her career hinges on her patrons' opinion of her love life. Finally she is back on the streets. This is so unremarkably blunt that near the middle an intertitle plainly announces as much.

But this is also about a fate that steals into you and hurts spontaneously, capriciously. Love defined by what you see, and what crashes into you.

So a melodrama about love and counter-love but with histrionics that function on decidedly overblown coincidence. The turning point, away from episodes of ordinary life and into soap operatic excess, is when our waitress is approached on the street to become a movie actress, itself a dream scenario. The rest unfolds as one of her movies might have, a lot of tragic irony and brazen emotion.

But there is a third layer here that achieves an exceptional resonance by resolving the play on a level behind narrative. Look for the scene where our waitress drives up with her soon-to-be husband to a majestic view of Mt. Fuji in the distance.

The obvious thing to note in tandem with the overarching message about persisting tradition, is that the modern pilgrimage - Mt Fuji being a traditional destination in the Edo period - is no longer an arduous trek on foot and instead a scenic, leisurely drive. But still to the place in view of the gods.

The other is that Mt. Fuji, the spiritual heart of Japan, can be written with characters meaning 'not-two' (fu-ji), also meaning 'unique'. The contrast of this is the fascinating tradition among adherents of the Shinto faith to construct artificial replicas of Mt. Fuji, small mounds of a few feet high, inside Tokyo, then Edo, and usually in view of the mountain (a famous one used to be in Meguro, others in Takata and Fukagawa, a few dozen of these remain to this day). This was done to facilitate a more comfortable pilgrimage to these 'new Fujis', whereby the people could exercise their religious duty without having to leave behind the bustle of secular ones.

Now most viewers will note that the film is rich in symmetry: two crashes reversing fate, two actresses performing roles, two spurned lovers. We may be inclined to interpret by folding the two ends. We may puzzle when it doesn't really compute as such. One crash is clearly the result of a karmic thread and we see, to that effect, the man actually broken in a hospital bed as result of his mother's and sister's meddling, the other is the result of random causality, pure chance. One of the women becomes an actress and discovers true love, the other doesn't. One lover abandons, the other is abandoned.

So we have only the illusion of symmetry, artificial nature. Things are 'not-two', no two people are the same, no two mountains, no two images, though we construct replicas to that effect - and cinema is a major tool to that effect.

This is a brilliant concept, so deeply visual and Japanese it still seems novel and fresh to this day - the same way Zen gardens of hundreds of years ago look 'modern'.

At the center is only a chance glimpse into a speeding vehicle repeated twice, a movie shot framed from life. And all sorts of narratives implicit by watching, because we expect things to mean things other than themselves. Oh, sometimes they do and there is a story. A woman and a man embracing in a car, what else would anyone surmise but a love affair? But they don't always, and lives are broken in the assumption.

Assymetry, empty space at the center of stories is what Naruse brilliantly achieves, with just these few strokes. You can only illustrate around this space, in our case the enigmatic final shot of the man on the bus.

What does it mean? Is he back? Back and married? Looking for her? Herself looking for him and conjuring the image? You pour your own tea.

But knowing he interpreted wrong the first time is our hint to resist the urge to attach a narrative. Take for what it is, meaning itself. Only the Japanese could do this so well.

Something to meditate upon.


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