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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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
Now I know what inspired "The Monster with 21 faces"
Yasuzo Masumura's Giants and Toys is a film that's truly ahead of its time, in the context of Japanese cinema comparable only to Yoshishige Yoshida's Blood is Dry, released three years after, as both films deal with bizarre manifestations of cruel corporatism and the fickle nature of fame in a commercialized world. Masumura's movie (based on Takeshi Kaiko's novel) was released in the late fifties, but is still relevant today. And this was one of his first films! The lack of budget is visible, but the self-assured manic filming style hides it perfectly. The two leads from Masumura's debut film Kisses return here, with Hitomi Nozoe giving us one of the most effortlessly hilarious performances in '50s cinema.
Right from the intro showing us a single photo being virally reproduced into oblivion, pop-art style, to the opening image of uniformed men walking in unison, Masumura pinpoints his two main targets; the grotesque nature of commercialism which produces overnight sensations and later discards them with equal ease, and the soulless corporate machine operating under the "If we stop to think, we'll get crushed" mentality. The aggressive message is further laid out in some nuanced layers of symbolism, such as equaling instant-superstars to tadpoles quickly turning into frogs or comparing the company executives to kids playing with toys, to some not-so-subtle but still effective jokes, like naming the three competing caramel companies "World", "Giant" and "Apollo". In the chaotic world of Giants and Toys, the executives' lighters still don't seem to work, despite the immense planning and organization skills wasted on exploitative banalities. It may be a bit repetitive, and the intro song kinda sucks, but there's no point in denying that this film was far ahead of what most of the world produced back then.
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