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A troupe of actors comes to town, short on funds and bedeviled by bad weather, so they can't put on shows. Kihachi is the troupe's leader. He steals off every day to visit Otsune (an ex-lover) and their son, Shinkichi, who believes his father is a long-dead civil servant. Kihachi has been paying Shinkichi's tuition, and he's now at university. Kihachi's lover, Otaka, the troupe's lead actress, learns Kihachi's secret and plots to ruin Shinkichi and humiliate Kihachi: she offers money to Otoki, the troupe's ingénue, to seduce Shinkichi. Soon the boy is head over heels, and Otoki finds herself with feelings for him. Can this end well or is tragedy at hand? Written by
Warning: Some plot points are revealed in this review
One of the last silent films by Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu (later remade by Ozu himself in in color in 1959) is about a traveling kabuki troupe arriving to a small town in Japan. The troupe's leader, Kihachi (Takeshi Sakamoto) uses the occasion to meet his old lover and their grown son (who believes Kihachi is his uncle), but his current lover Otaka (pretty, ethereal Rieko Yagumo) does not appreciate this when she learns about it, so she convinces a fellow actress of the troupe to seduce Kihachi's son. Kihachi, obviously, doesn't react well either when he learns about this. Reportedly, Ozu based this film on an American film from 1928 called "The Barker".
There are few differences from the 1959 remake. For instance, here the kabuki troupe arrives to a mountain town in a train, instead of arriving to a coastal village by boat. Secondary characters are less shown. But mostly, both films are very similar, almost scene by scene, including the famous part where they are shouting over each other across a rainy street or the finale with Kihachi and his now reconciled lover drinking sake in the night train. The actor playing Kihachi, though, is about two decades younger than Ganjiro Nakamuro in the 1959 version.
Overall, this movie is not, in my opinion, as accomplished as the remake, but is still very well worth seeing, and one of the highlights of Ozu's silent films.
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