|Index||6 reviews in total|
This film looks as if it could have come from a more interesting book or play. A Russian photographer is trapped in post-war Tokyo and embittered both by Japan's role in the horrors of the recent war and by its close knit society and the limitations it places on his career. He seeks US citizenship and the professional freedom he perceives that it offers. He becomes torn between an American woman with very idiosyncratic social circumstances but who can offer him transit to the US and a comparatively westernised upper class Japanese girl. The portrayal of the sleazier side of Tokyo life, and especially expatriate life, of the time is interesting and probably representative. For the time it was made this is a particularly "adult" film. Worth a look.
Laurence Harvey is a half-Russian, half-Chinese photographer who has
waiting 12 years to immigrate from Japan to the USA. Embittered by the
of his parents during the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, he is now caught
between desire for a US Embassy official (Martha Hyer) & growing love
for a high-born Japanese girl (France Nuyen). Much more than an escapist
romantic melodrama, it explores issues such as the difference in
socio-economic classes & its effect on some people, modernity & freedom
tradition & culture. Beautifully filmed in Tokyo, Kyoto & the lake
movie will have you booking a flight on the next Japan Airlines flight.
Unfortunately, Paramount Studios has NOT released a wide screen DVD of this little seen & underrated film.
I felt this movie did a reasonably good job of dealing with the cross
cultural issues of the time and place. That is a significant
accomplishment given the complexities of Japan and the lead character's
mixed background. This movie can get you thinking if you take the time
to watch it closely. Laurence Harvey underplays his role as usual but I
think he managed to effectively convey the embittered and driven nature
of the character who is also just starting to dare to listen to his
feelings. France Nuyen tries but she is manifestly NOT Japanese and
cannot come close to fooling anyone. She looks great and is accessible
to the Western audiences that the movie was intended for but
nonetheless, I was left wondering how the movie would have changed if a
Japanese actress had been cast as Tomiko.
The rest of the cast delivers well although one wishes Martha Hyer's character had been given a bit more time to be developed.
Visually very well done.
Adapted from the best-selling novel by Ronald Kirkbride of the same
name, 1962's A Girl Named Tamiko touches on the then taboo subject of
interracial romance. In this situation, it happens to be between a
Japanese woman and a mixed-race white man. While taking into account
the sensibilities and cautiousness of sixties movie studios, A Girl
Named Tamiko was very ahead of it's time in dealing with racial
intolerance in both Western and Japanese culture. Whereas I found the
more heralded film Sayonara slightly condescending in its handling of
the subject of race, A Girl Named Tamiko, in my opinion comes across
more honestly. Another interesting note, this film sets the Japanese
girl on the higher social level of than her white lover. In other films
from this era dealing with interracial romance, it's usually the ethnic
girl (Asian, Latina, Black) who is "moving up the ladder" by winning
her white lover. It was a pleasant surprise to see that role reversed
in this film.
Set in 1960s Japan, Eurasian photographer Ivan Kalin (the underrated British actor Laurence Harvey) lives life with a chip on his shoulder concerning his Japanese hosts. His disdain stems from the fact that both his mother and father were killed due to Japanese military aggression. Ivan sees their culture as cold, structured and racist and is convinced there is no room for success there for a foreigner, despite his talents. Seeing the United States as a better opportunity for him to become successful, Ivan becomes a "user" and there seems to be no end to the people he will use to get what he wants including those closest to him.
While at a nightclub, Ivan's life is changes forever when he meets a beautiful, intelligent Japanese girl named Tamiko (played by the enchantingly beautiful and unsung France Nuyen). Simultaneously, he rekindles an affair with vivacious, and influential Fay Wilson (all-time favorite bad girl beauty Martha Hyer). While obviously attracted to Tamiko, Ivan nevertheless sees Fay and her connections as his "free ticket" to the United States. With fame and fortune within his grasp, Ivan abandons the matters of the heart and pursues Fay until he has her in the palm of his hand. However, Ivan can't stop thinking about Tamiko, who in herself is the epitome of Japanese culture, everything which he despises. However, in Tamiko, Ivan sees the purity, and spiritual essence of Japanese culture stripped of its rigid structure and caste system. Tamiko, herself having lost her parents during the war, understands Ivan's hurt and anger against her people. Of course their path to romance is blocked not only by Ivan's selfish affair with Fay but also by Tamiko's brother Minya (played by great character actor John Fujioka). With his sister contracted into an arranged marriage with a Japanese of nobility, Minya forbids Tamiko to even be seen in public with Ivan. Nevertheless, the attraction is too strong and not even the rigidness of racism and social barriers can keep them apart.
While made in the melodramatic style of early 1960s Hollywood films such as The Best of Everything and Peyton Place, A Girl Named Tamiko manages to be a touching, honest and romantic journey into cultural differences, prejudices and intolerance. The performances by the two leads Nuyen and Harvey are both engaging and believable. Neither attempts to force an emotional response, rather they allow their budding romance to blossom into a simmer leaving only the censors to keep it from boiling over into something more "steamier."
The film was directed by John Sturges whose string of action-Western hits (The Magnificent Seven, Bad Day at Black Rock and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), kind of made him the James Cameron of his time. Unfortunately, A Girl Named Tamiko was not a box office success when it was released. However, in watching this film, this doesn't appear to be the result of Sturges inability to handle softer material. In fact I feel it's just the opposite. Sturges effectively balances the sensitivities and delicacies of this "controversial" material without wimping out when it came to showcasing the prejudices of both Asian and Western cultures towards one another. His actors seem relaxed and at ease with the material, which is reflected in the steady, yet understated performances.
Laurence Harvey (of "Butterfield Eight" fame) plays a Eurasian
(half-Russian/half-Japanese) photographer living in Japan who longs to go
He is torn between his attraction to the blonde American Martha Hyer and the Japanese Tamiko (France Nuyen).
It has its moments and some glimpses of Japanese culture, but is not the greatest film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the great tradition of Sayonara, Teahouse of the August Moon, Bridges of Toko-Ri, and Love Is A Many Splendored Thing, this movie is yet another 1950s-1960s era taboo-romance/travelogue picture with little going for it in terms of plot or authenticity. I find it odd that many people tout the exotic locales as a positive - a closer look at the film reveals that the leads spend exorbitant amounts of time interacting in front of projections, to say nothing of duped stand-ins walking through crowds and busy scenes. The unsettling mannerisms of Laurence Harvey actually lend some level of interest to his otherwise unlikeable character. The blonde vamp is an awful weak female stereotype. The titular Tamiko has all the makings of a strong female, but still ties her happiness to an emotionally vacant (at least until the last improbable minute and a half) jerk. It was interesting to see Tokyo of the early 1960s, but I'm inclined to believe very little of the movie was filmed in Japan. Most of the interiors reek of studio sets - right down to fake trees in some spots. Although not an offensive mess by any means, this is still horribly dated.
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