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The Yagyu family's elder son sends an old and cheap looking pot to his young brother, ignoring that the pot contains a map showing where it was hidden a treasure of a million ryo. He tries to recover it but his brother's wife has sold it to some junk dealers. Finally the pot ends up in Yasu's hands, a kid whose father was killed although Tange Sazen was supposed to protect him from in his way to home, so Tange Sazen will look after Yasu. Written by
Sadao Yamanaka's story is a bit tragic. He was a superb young director who was conscripted out to fight in the war of aggression in Manchuria, where he died at the age of 28 of dysentery (same age as me at the time of writing). By that age, in a seven year period this wunderkind directed 24 films. Unfortunately only three remain intact. This one, which is a jidaigeki comedy, Humanity and Paper Balloons, which is a humanist drama available on R2 DVD and Kochiyama soshun, which is apparently a pessimistic humanist kabuki adaptation that hardly anyone in the west has seen.
It's a very likable film. There's a pot that a daimyo lord owns that's an heirloom, it's not a very good pot though, just a cheap thing with a monkey painted on. As a cheeky jibe he gives it away to his brother-in-law (who is still quite well off but likes to have a moan because he's not filthy rich and is only a second son). Our pot-giver realises that he's given away this pot though and that it has a treasure map hidden on it that leads to a spot where a million ryo fortune has been buried (a huge sum of money). Unfortunately the wife of the pot receiver has given the pot away to the junk collector by the time all this is discovered.
So the whole film is ostensibly about the search for this pot in Edo.
I say ostensibly because those awaiting a journey out into the countryside in search of traysuuure will be out of luck. Yamanaka was a humanist, to him their were much more important things than a million ryo. The brother-in-law for example is bored of his irenic existence on his estate surrounded by retainers, and so uses the pot as a chance to go out and play, in fact, whilst all his retainers think he is out searching for the pot, he goes to an toy archery range and plays around at shooting targets and girl-watching. This dalliance away from his stuffy life is far more important to him than a million ryo.
Similarly with our hero, the one-armed, one-eyed, Sazen Tange, his existence as the guard of the archery range and his playful bickering with the proprietress is all that he wants.
It's a very funny film in that Sazen and his good lady always have bickering discussions where they make out that they're going to make the very worst moral decision possible, and then in the next scene we cut to them doing the right thing. There was one laugh out loud moment for me when they're arguing about their adopted son's education, Sazen wants him trained as a warrior whilst she wants him to be a scholar, they shout at each other "Dojo", "Teragoya" (school), "Dojo!", "Teragoya!", "Dojo!!", "Teragoya!!". Sazen screams at her "HOW WILL HE KNOW HOW TO DEFEAT AN ENEMY???".
What's uplifting is that Sazen has obviously been through a horrific battle trauma, his bad eye has a big scar right down it and his right arm is missing. But he doesn't moan about it at all. There's also a junk salesman who has no arms, and he just get's on with what he has to do too.
There's a deleted scene on the DVD with Sazen involved in a big battle against a bunch of retainers. It's exhilarating and good to watch, but would have compromised the humanism of the film, and so was probably justly cut.
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