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Friday, January 8, 2016

HOGARAKA NI AYUME / WALK CHEERFULLY (1930)

This late silent from a young Yasujirô Ozu is a merry, sentimental delight, a gangster’s redemption tale Warner Brothers might have developed . . . in Japan. Opening with a clever fake-out robbery which leads straight into an action chase scene as a couple of small-time hoods get away with a bit of larceny. Spirited genre work from Ozu. Who’d thunk? The boys are loosely aligned with larger gangs who meet & greet with hilarious little jigs of recognition, like MOTOWN back-up singers, but everything changes when handsome Kenji-the-Knife (with the tattoo to prove it) falls for lovely office worker Yasue. Romantic complications ensue (jealous past admirers), then budding love all but collapses when Yasue discovers her new boyfriend lives on the wrong side of the law. Can he go straight for love? Will Yasue’s boss force his attentions on her? And what of Kenji’s longtime thieving partner? Ozu shows ease & style at every plot turn, going in for just the right visual detail to make something special out of small moments. And a bit deeper than that for an unexpectedly touching scene when Kenji breaks up with his longtime partner in crime. The third act is all redemption, slowing down a bit, but not enough to hurt things. Then, right at the end, a couple of signature Ozu interstitial shots, quiet little compositions between scenes often called 'pillow shots.' Here, a courtyard of clotheslines and wooden pins waiting for the laundry. A portent of glories to come.

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