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Archive for October 7th, 2011

by Marilyn Ferdinand

A musical about a mountain man in the Pacific Northwest coming into town to stock up on winter supplies and take on an unpaid hired hand, aka, a wife, followed by the kidnapping of six girls to marry his brothers doesn’t seem like a very promising idea. In fact, it sounds like a very, very bad idea, though one quite in keeping with the sexism of 1950s Hollywood. So how is it that Seven Brides for Seven Brothers not only gets away with it, but attracts a loyal, loving following that includes yours truly? The answer is both simple and a bit irrational.

Seven Brides is adapted from a very old legend, the Rape (abduction) of the Sabine Women, that more or less explains the populating of Rome shortly after its founding in 753 BC. The musical is open with its attribution, including as it does a song called “Sobbin’ Women,” a retelling of the legend that gives the brothers their very bad idea in the first place. It also creates some very real tears among the frightened girls who, due to a gunfire-instigated avalanche, are cut off from returning to their homes until the spring thaw.

Yet, because this is a musical, and because we who love the film are fans of musicals, we know that as tawdry as this set-up sounds, it will result in all kinds of true love and happiness. That’s the irrational part: we accept any premise, no matter how unsavory, implausible, or convoluted, because we know that truth, justice, and the American Way—or something like that—will out in the end. Seven Brides does not stray from this formula, but formula alone is not what elevates this musical. That, my friends, is all down to execution. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1956 81m) DVD2 (Japan only, no English subs)

Aka. Suzaki Paradise: Akashingo

By the wet neon lights

Shizui Sakagami  d  Yuzo Kawashima  w  Toshiro Ide, Nobuyoshi Terada  story  Yoshiko Shibaki  ph  Kurataro Takamura  ed  Tadashi Nakamura  m  Riichiro Manabe  art  Kimihiko Nakamura

Michiyo Aratama (Tsutae), Yukiko Todoroki (Osami), Seizaburo Kawazu (Ochiai), Tatsuya Mihashi (Yoshiji), Izumi Ashikawa (Tamako), Shoichi Izawa (Sankichi), Shinzuke Maki (Nobuo), Kenjiro Uemura (Denshichi), Asako Tsuda (Hatsue),

Of all those films to scrape into the list at the last minute in those scurrying final months, there can be none that gave me greater pleasure than this.  I first became aware of Yuzo Kawashima when reading a piece on Shohei Imamura many years ago in which he described Kawashima as “my teacher”, in much the same way as Chaplin called Max Linder his professor.  There was a big difference, though, in that Chaplin learnt from watching Linder’s films, while Imamura worked as Kawashima’s assistant director.  Kawashima died young, aged 45 in 1963, in the same year as Ozu, but he was of a different stock, one of the leading lights of what is best described as the pre-new wave, that led on to not just Imamura but the even greater lights of Oshima, Yoshida and Masumura. 

            His wasn’t a name idly invoked by a grateful pupil.  On the popular website Kinema Junpo in their frequently updated Top 100 Japanese Films lists, two of his films appear in the top 15, ahead of anything by Mizoguchi, with a third in the top 50.  It’s not a definitive list, with too many glaring low placings, but it gives one some idea of the master’s popularity in his native country.  Suzaki wasn’t even the highest placed of his films, an honour belonging to The Sun Legend of the End of the Tokugawa Era, made the following year, which appeared at no.4, behind only Tokyo Story, The Seven Samurai and Floating Clouds.  How criminal is it then that his films are not available with English subtitles anywhere and never shown in the west?  Even this single entry was only made available due to non-official subtitles uploaded onto the internet, and one can only hope that he or someone else does the same for not just Tokugawa but the likes of The Graceful Brute, too, which contains one of Ayako Wakao’s pivotal performances. (more…)

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