Five poor musicians make up the worst traveling brass band in Japan. For a few days they hook up with an awful circus whose male performers are on strike in this funny comedy with a sad edge by Mikio Naruse.
People look at an artistic career and make a story of it. To make it neat and to make their assertions seem stronger, they discard facts that don't fit or declare them unimportant. To people who see Naruse as a maker of great women's movies, this comedy may seem unimportant. However life is not that neat and when it comes to looking at movies... well, I think each movie should be looked at on its own merits After that it can be fitted into the jigsaw puzzle of a life. Looking at this one, it's a good effort.
For one thing, this movie never mocks its characters. They are truly awful musicians, whether trying to play the Merry Widow Waltz or filling in for circus acrobats and being told "If you fall, the audience will like it". The movie audience laughs, then stops abruptly. The characters survive on half-recognized delusion, hoping to become good musicians, hoping for an end of the life on the road, with stability and love, but recognizing they will never achieve more.
There were several movies in this period that concerned themselves with these fringe members of society. I have seen efforts by Ozu and Leo McCarey, and this one is a worthy addition to that genre. It maintains its interest by its comedy but it tugs at heartstrings by its characterizations.
And how does it fit into Naruse's corpus of work? I've only seen half a dozen. For once, I'll leave the overall assessment for people who can't look at a movie on its own merits.
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