A beautiful and very funny film that needs more attention
Wakana, aged 14, is the daughter of a standup comedy couple. The father constantly cheats on his wife and eventually they divorced after he makes his lover pregnant. Father and mother are now divorced still worked together. But the father starts drinking heavily and this is start to show up on stage. Their career goes down and one day he disappears. Wakana then decides to look for him. WARNING SPOILER. THE FOLLOWING REVIEW WILL DISCLOSE IMPORTANT POINTS OF THE PLOT
The brief plot outlined above doesn't make justice to the greatness of this film. This film can be seen as homage to Osaka and to its comic tradition specially to Manzai comedy (standup duo comedy). Many references to Ozu's films can be discovered ( Ichikawa Jun is in fact a well-known admired of Ozu's, one of his previous films Tokyo Kyodai is a conscious homage made by the director to Ozu's Tokyo Story and his films in general.). For instance the title Osaka Monogatari resembling Ozu's Tokyo Monogatari. The use of certain imagery such as trains, hanged clothes (including trainers) etc. The use of jokes about farting which Ozu was very keen on appeared in this film too. And in particularly the style of the film, its avoidance of dramatization and overtly acting. Scenes such the father's road accident and his death one month later are underplayed, some Japanese critics suggested that it shows a detached view of what it is happening. I would say that avoids the use of common tricks in cinema to exploit reaction from the spectator, in few words destroys the drama. After searching for him, Wakana is informed her father is in hospital. We see her visiting him in hospital surrounded by the rest of the family, her mother and younger brother. When we believe that the whole family is reunited again, Wakana voice-over tell us that he died a month later. Expectations for a happy ending are destroyed but the director doesn't use this unexpected turning to make us cry. It's all done quite if I can use this word "naturally", life is like that and we have to accept it as it is: pure Ozu essence. This scene in some ways resembles the scene in Tokyo Story where the mother dies after her trip to Tokyo. Earlier in the film there was only a hint that she might have been ill when staying at a hit spring. After returning from Tokyo when we get back to the old Tokyo she's already ill and with few chances of living . Hours later she dies. Here drama is avoided too. One thing that it makes this film a great experience is its ability to make fun of quite sad situations. After the father's death the son tells a family agent who is in love with the mother that now is his best chance as the mother is very lonely now. Or after the father collapses when staging their act due to his drinking problem and tells his ex-wife that he's always been followed her ass and done whatever she did but now she's moved ahead and far away and can't followed her ass anymore. She asks him where her ass has gone and he replies it has farted away. Also when the couple divorces and the father marries his love they decided to live a few doors away from where the wife and the kids live. I talked about the performances which are very naturalistic. You can't really tell if the actors are professional or not or if the story is real or not, at least at the beginning of the film, which starts as a documentary narrated by Wakada and centered on her parents' show. There is a wonderful juxtaposition of images of her parents on stage and she and her brother in the park performing the same act. After this exposition the film moves to more traditional, slower and quieter way of showing the story which will remain until the very end of the film when Wakada is looking for her father. At this time she encounters a former classmate, Toru, expelled from school for threatening teachers and whom she likes. Their relationship is unique and very interesting. Even though they are clearly attracted to each they don't kiss. During the search for her father Wakada visits all the people who sent postcards or letters to him and discovered things about her father she didn't know. In fact, one of the reasons for her father leaving home was because she admitted he was a failure after being asked by him. Now after talking to all these friends (comedians in real life) she realizes that he wasn't a failure, he made them all laugh. Toru also admits that her father must be a very funny person. Toru is being constantly pursued by a rival gang and during one of these persecutions, Wakada and Toru on bicycle, the director seizes the chance to change the film's mood. Now the editing is faster, the music louder. We are given very quick snapshots of Osaka's life specially the working class, the elderly and the unemployed. We see rows and rows of cardboard made houses inhabited by the heirs of the bubble economy burst. The family, in fact, even though famous comedians sometimes appearing on TV, live in a very modest and crammed house and have debts.
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