A young samurai, Shojuro Sako, travels on the Tokaido to Edo with his two servants, Genta and Gonpachi. Gonpachi has been told by Shojuro's mother to prevent his Master from drinking... See full synopsis »
Otsuta is running the geisha house Tsuta in Tokyo. Her business is heavily in debt. Her daughter Katsuyo doesn't see any future in her mothers trade in the late days of Geisha. But Otsuta ... See full summary »
Schoolteacher Hisako Oishi struggles to imbue her students with a positive view of the world and their place in it, despite the fact that she knows full well that most of them will die in ... See full summary »
In April the Masters of Cinema will release all three surviving Yamanakas on DVD. This is the last one he made but the first one available on DVD individually. I have seen "Tange Sazen" (1935), which is just as accomplished and perfect as this, but I haven't seen "Kôchiyama Sôshun" (1936).
The two that I have seen are a testament of clear vision, clarity of expression, and mastery of detail. His ability to form character is uncanny, as well as his sense of space: in just a few minutes we are with a handful of brushstrokes placed not only in a certain place, the wonderfully enclosed, near-claustrophobic slum and its iridescent inhabitants: some seemingly crooked, some greedy, some haunted; all of them flawed in their own selves. They converse with each other, themselves, their surroundings and events befalling them as real characters, not mere characterizations.
As fun as the film is, there's still an immensely tragic undersong of failure that penetrates the apparent lightness. How Yamanaka is able to weave all this together in mere 90 minutes is pleasantly surprising, and we can be thankful to have three instead of zilch.
There are a few films to which I return time and again for counsel, reinvigoration, perspective. Either when I've been away from cinema literally (not seeing many films) or figuratively (seeing only forgettable tripe). This is one of those films to which I'll return, gladly.
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