Although the script is based on a Kabuki story 'Shinza the barber,' the archaic atmosphere of the original story is seen nowhere in this movie. As in his earlier 'Kochiyama Soshun,' the director turned both saints and criminals into mundane figures absorbed in the petty concerns. I think this is the beauty of the movie. The characters are more rational and feisty than ordinary viewers expect. They are all looking in the different directions, which reminded me of the 'Cherry Orchard' by Chekhov.
Honestly, the last 15 minutes of this movie disappointed me a little. The last scenes of earlier 'Kochiyama Soshun' is, I think, one of the miracles in cinema history. But 'Humanity and Paper Balloon' lacked such a formidable climax. So I was a little disappointed. But an hour after watching it, I started to feel terrified of the ending. Maybe the humble description of the forlorn wife was the reason for it. That character didn't get my attention so much while I was watching it. But now I keep thinking about that character. I'm haunted.
I like the director's dry realism. He depicted the poverty-stricken alley as such and nothing else. To be sure, it must be depressing to be among the least fortunate in the monetary economy. In addition to dependency on others and proximity to crimes, uncomfortable alienation from the neighbors is as likely to happen among the poor as among the better off. I know that it is commonplace to interpret the pessimistic undertone of the movie as influenced by the then social conditions. But, besides that, the depiction of pessimistic poverty has an aesthetic advantage in itself.
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