In the middle of a fierce commercial competition between three caramel companies, an executive builds up a ditsy teenage girl as a mascot while simultaneously trying to uncover the rival companies' plans.
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Yuko is sent to the coastal regions to be raised away from the rest of her sophisticated family where she finds out from her ill grandmother that she is actually the love child of her wealthy businessman father and his ex-secretary.
An engineer's wife returns home with a lost teenager. A man posing as her dad tries to get her back, causing the engineer to recall his youth as a revolutionary, obscured by dreamlike disruptions of time and space, fantasy and reality.
As much a film of its moment as Sweet Smell of Success and just as lasting in its pertinence, this cruel satire is Masumura's masterpiece - although an excellent script (from a Ken Kaiko novel) and terrific cast deserve their share of the credit. Three confectionery companies are locked in cut-throat rivalry for a share of a market increasingly dominated by imported US candy. Goda (Takamatsu), a thrusting young exec with World Caramel, spots a young woman out shopping and decides to turn her into a celebrity who can star in his plan for a space age ad campaign. Kyoko Shima (Nozoe), averagely pretty and with exceptionally bad teeth, takes to the Pygmalion treatment like a duck to water and soon leaves behind her job with a failing taxi firm and her dysfunctional family. Goda's assistant Nishi (Kawaguchi), who dates a woman exec from a rival firm and proves a useless industrial spy, watches as both the girl and his boss succumb to mega-greed; the film's ending turns on whether or not ... Written by
Pop satire of capitalism was way ahead of its time
Japan, 1958. As fierce competition goes on between the Giant, World, and Apollo candy companies, Nishi, an advertising executive for World, finds on the streets a cute hillbilly girl called Kyoko with rotted out teeth, bad clothes and tadpoles as pets. Sensing she possesses some sort of weird appeal, he immediately thinks she would make a great model for the next World campaign, selling candy in a space suit (Space themes, the execs reason, should score big as a new theme for advertising in Asia; let's remember this movie was made a year after the Sputnik). As she becomes more famous, of course, Kyoko develops a more independent streak, and resents more and more being manipulated around by the World people. So she tries to pursue the dream of being a singer in the new medium of television. It is amazing that this satire of advertising, capitalism and consumerism was made in 1958, since it is unlike any other movie from that time, including American movies. A film relatively (and undeservedly) unknown, it's full of pop imagery a decade before pop took over the world. It only shows once again that since the 1950s, Japan has been ahead of the rest of the world (including other rich countries) by decades. By the way, I saw it in a terrific color print, that makes the Japan of almost 50 years ago look as if it was shot yesterday.
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