In Older Brother, Younger Sister, director Mikio Naruse's adaptation of an oft-filmed popular novel by Saisei Murô, the eldest daughter (Machiko Kyô) of a rural family comes home pregnant, ... See full summary »
A story of five teenagers who are setting up an armed gang: a mosaic of love, lost relationships, betrayal and nihilism, that takes place in a declining city, where everything is collapsing within the economic and social crisis.
After failing her university entrance exam, Sakuko is invited by her aunt Mikie to spend summer vacation in a beautiful seaside town. Sakuko gets to know the people of the town, including Takashi, a shy relative of her childhood friend.
On the surface, the point here is education, which may seem a little perfunctory now anyway - the film closes with the doctor kindly advising the distraught mother to 'support and guide' her teenage daughter through the trouble of a coming pregnancy and adolescence in general. He instructs his own son to focus on studies and leave chasing skirt for later in life.
So both filmgoing parents and their kids go away with lessons in balancing emotion with duty, the old Japanese double-bind of giri/ninjo. The bulk of the film is teenagers having to cope with feelings, the first blossoms of sexuality. Once more parents get in the way.
If you like to puzzle about these things, since main plot devices here are a photobook - and suggestive photo - and a maid discovered in illicit love, you may want to imagine that Naruse's earlier Avalanche somehow ties into all this.
But the real beauty is away from any message and really the focus on a world as it reveals itself new and full of splendor, a spring morning after the rain.
It's crisp vast skies and branches of trees gently bobbing in the wind. It's poetry read out loud beneath trees, song and boyish wrestle. It's boy and girl laying down and smelling the grass before an impulsive first kiss. It's the girl so dismayed by that kiss, the sky itself is blackened and begins to rain down hard. It is all about sense and the light falling a certain way, in the sense of a deeply encountered Zen world that may be complex and difficult so far as human affairs go, but is sublime simplicity when you recognize that all of this is trivial and flies away.
By itself, this is small but graceful, an exercise in sustained mood that hopefully pays off in future Naruse projects I am going to seek.
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