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Set in the last few years of the shogun's rule, this period/ensemble movie depicts the lives of the young and the restless at a whorehouse. The protagonist is Saheiji, a resourceful, witty ... See full summary »
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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
"Yamanaka's films are divinely innocent and at the same time desperately cruel", writes Aoyama Shinji. Indeed, even the lightest and most farcical of the three surviving films, "Tange Sazen" (1935) makes me laugh through tears.
Tange Sazen was created by Hasegawa Kaitarô under the pen name Hayashi Fubō in 1927-28, and it was an immensely popular character: the first films appeared in 1928, and made Tange Sazen a household name of sorts. Yamanaka's film appeared in 1935, and was "supposed" to be a sequel of sorts to two earlier features by Itô Daisuke. Indeed, Itô was supposed to direct this one as well, and Yamanaka was brought aboard only after Itô walked from the film.
But Yamanaka made the film the way he wanted it: Hayashi was reportedly so infuriated that he wanted his name taken off the credits of the film. Tange is seriously ironic not only towards the others but the film itself, and the genre it so expertly seems to trample and play with.
Another of Yamanaka's great skills as a storyteller is his ability to go beyond mere social allegory or statement. His allusions are subtle, I think, not at all heavy-handed, and this has more to do with what one might call detachment but what I see as an immense love for humanity. Even his last will exhibits this great, deeply resonant humor that is the soul of his films (Imamura is not so dissimilar in this respect). This statement in itself hardly gives justice to the complex host of characters he weaves out of light and shadow, and sound waves. It's not about clarity, I think, or an innate yearning for logic, but rather the elevation of the illogical in humanity wherein all tragedy, comedy and love emerge.
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