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Friday, November 18, 2016

DEKIGOKORO / PASSING FANCY (1933)

Well observed, if modest silent dramedy from a young, yet already experienced Yasujirô Ozu hangs a classic no-fool-like-an-old fool romance on a series of neighborhood relationship stories to excellent effect. Not yet old, but no longer young, brewery worker Kihachi is a single dad with a hard to handle ten-yr-old son (Tomio) and a best pal/drinking bud in Jiro, his handsome co-worker. Trouble strikes two ways when they rescue a pretty homeless girl (Harue) with a job at their local hangout and once more when the boy becomes sick. Girl trouble because Kihachi falls for the pretty waif, but she only has eyes for Jiro. Kid trouble when Tomio eats so many sweets he winds up in hospital. Naturally, all this works itself out in the end, but the script keeps things lively & intelligent while Ozu does wonders bringing up details that help the old tropes ring true. Starting right from the opening, when a storyteller recital finds the camera lowering its gaze to focus on a dropped empty pocketbook, stolen again & again by hopeful members of the audience. And note that eye patch on the boy. In any other film, it would foreshadow blindness or a brain tumor. But for Ozu, it’s just an eye patch; any presumed infection disappears without comment between scenes. (The kid's tummy troubles are self-inflicted via candy-buying spree.) Or later in the film when Jiro, who’s long refused to admit any feelings toward Harue, finally owns up to the obvious. Ozu, covering the exchange in a series of reverse angles between Harue & Jiro, purposefully places Jiro on the ‘wrong’ side of the frame, but only when he finally blurts out the truth. Ozu: filmmaker nonpareil.

DOUBLE-BILL: Of twenty previous films from Ozu, most are either hard to see or lost. But there’s already a masterpiece to his credit in I WAS BORN, BUT . . . /’32.

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