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Scheming prevails as scouts try to sign a young baseball star for huge sums of money
msroz from United States
11 March 2015
"I Will Buy You" (1956) is in an Eclipse series from Criterion. Its
Japanese title is "Anata kaimasu". The director is Masata Kobayashi.
This is a story of corruption in the scouting and recruitment of a
college graduate who is a baseball star. The following year Kobayashi
did another story of corruption, "Black River" (or Kuroi kawa"), and
that one is a real noir too that focuses on U.S. military bases and
associated vice and lawlessness.
"I Will Buy You" can be placed beside movies like "Sweet Smell of
Success", "A Face in the Crowd" and "Slander", all of which are noirs
set in a world of business and success accompanied by sordid or
degraded moral values. There are some other movies in a somewhat
similar vein that are not as dark, such as "Patterns", "The Power and
the Prize", "Lonelyhearts" and "The Fountainhead".
The cinematography and staging of "I Will Buy You" immediately place it
in the noir category. It's a paradox of classic film noir that great
beauty in how a film looks and how a story is told accompany stories
that delve into such matters as murder, robbery, police methods,
corruption, greed, madness, and psychopathologies. Director Kobayashi
working with cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta, who did many films with
Yasujiro Ozu, really have given us a beautiful noir film to look at.
Minoro Oki is a young man who is a terrific baseball player. Several
teams are anxious to recruit him. The story focuses mainly on Keiji
Sada who plays a young scout from one team. In the earlier and middle
part of the film, we quite often are privy to his interior thoughts in
voice-over as he sizes up people and situations he faces. While a
relative newcomer and somewhat naive, he's also quite shrewd and
calculating. He's focused on success and money as are almost everyone
he encounters, yet the way that he's portrayed makes him a relatively
sympathetic character who is immersed in a situation where one doesn't
know whom to trust.
Oki's trainer for the past 4 years, Yunosuke Ito, is a very important
intermediary. He's in a position to extract bribes or payoffs to
influence Oki and to allow access to him and his family. Oki's girl
friend, Keiko Kishi, has a very different agenda and values than the
scouts, Ito and Oki. Oki's family, parents and brothers, appear at
first to be naive peasants; but when the bidding war starts, they are
right in the thick of it. Oki himself is at first seen as interested
only in the game, but as the story develops his innocence is only on
The story's main theme is the conflict between humanity and the human
being as an item of commerce or a commodity. One's interest is mainly
maintained by witnessing how the huge sums of money involved affect
different persons. There is a good deal of suspense in seeing how
people's behavior develops under this pressure and incentive. There are
no outright crimes in the story. There are moral shadings and moral
issues. No character is without ethical questions.
At 111 minutes, the movie runs a bit long. It becomes hard to maintain
tension in a continual way without a certain amount of dullness setting
in or loss in momentum. There is a fair amount of jumping back and
forth among the different scouts and other principals. These are not
major enough issues to undermine the movie's strong points. The movie
delivers a message of widespread moral ambiguity. It's illustrated
dramatically by the nature of the large prize that baseball offers, but
one sees that the moral playing field of the human soul is general.
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