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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

MONATO NO NIHON MUSUME / JAPANESE GIRLS AT THE HARBOR (1933)

A late silent film from the remarkable Hiroshi Shimizu on the impermanency of friendship told in the form of a women’s pic. Two gal pals from school find their relationship strained when a boyfriend enters the picture. Worse, he’s two-timing the girl with another relationship. Things come to a head when an act of jealous violence pushes all the relationships off a cliff: there’s an ill-considered marriage, a break up of bosom buddies, a new boyfriend with mob connections, a descent past respectability with a job as a dance hall hostess, a neighbor’s slow death from TB, et al. Yet, Shimizu manages this within a 72 minute running time that neither shortchanges character nor feels rushed. It should reek of melodrama, yet it comes off as believably melancholy and, finally, hopeful. You’ll fall for everyone, especially a marvelously drawn bohemian artist who fears to stir the waters when he falls too hard for the dance hostess. Technically, the film is immaculately handled with unexpected jump cuts (in 1933!) used as dramatic punctuation.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The leading actress looks like an Asian edition of Hollywood silent screen star Colleen Moore. Check out that nose.

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