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They'll be comin' round the mountain while you snore...
I saw this Japanese movie in 2005 at the Cinema Muto festival in Sacile, Italy. The festival screened a print from the National Film Centre, Tokyo that had its original Japanese intertitles, with English subtitles added. The film's title is offered in English as 'Souls on the Road'.
Idealistic young Koichiro is the sensitive artistic type; he longs for success as a violinist. Worse luck, he's a small-town boy from the Hokkaido provinces: if he hopes for success as a fiddler, he'll have to up sticks (fiddlesticks?) and move to Tokyo. Koichiro's practical-minded father Yasushi is dead-set against this, and Yasushi has an even better reason for his argument: Koichiro has a wife and young daughter. In order to follow his fiddling dream, Koichiro brings his wife and daughter to the big city with him. Sure enough, he finds only disappointment in Tokyo, and he trudges back towards Hokkaido with his family in tow.
While the projectionist changes the reel, two convicts named Kamezo and Tsurikichi escape from prison. They meet Koichiro and his family on a mountainside. This is where I lost interest.
I was slightly intrigued that this movie attempted to depict the escaped convicts sympathetically ... but that may be down to this story being adapted from a work by Maxim Gorky. Also, in this movie's favour, the editing seemed a bit more rapid than in other Japanese movies from this period.
I sat through the second half of this film with my eyes glazed, barely following the action ... especially since there really wasn't much action. Part of my ennui might have been down to the fact that there were two simultaneous programme tracks at the Sacile festival (in two separate cinemas, at opposite ends of town), and I was somewhat exhausted at that point. However, I did manage to stay through the end of this film, yet it seemed to me that I'd missed the resolutions of several subplots. I compared notes with several other people who had attended the same screening; all of them assured me that, indeed, those plot points were well and truly left unresolved in the movie. So I hadn't nodded off, then. Might this perhaps be an incomplete print, with scenes missing? Apparently not. Evidently, the film-makers just never got round to finishing their story.
I try to be generous to movies from cultures radically different from my own, as I want to make absolutely certain that I'm not misjudging them due to cultural shortcomings of my own. In this case, though, I feel confident to say that this movie is boring and poorly made. My rating is just 4 out of 10, and I'm likely being generous.
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