Japanese Girls at the Harbor

Sunako (L) and Dora (R)

Sunako (L) and Dora (R)

I’m catching up with blogging. My last week in the US and first week of school have made it hard to blog.

Even with the busy schedule, I’ve been able to keep up with my New Year’s Resolution to watch one old movie a week (except for finals’ weeks). I just haven’t been able to blog about them.

The week before last I tried Hiroshi Shimizu’s Japanese Girls at the Harbor. I didn’t realize when I picked out the DVD at the library that it was silent. What’s more the DVD I had had no music sound track, though the box mentioned a new sound track. Not a big deal.

Japanese Girls at the Harbor follows two school girls, Dora and Sunako, who promise to be loyal friends forever. The promise lasts for about three minutes. When Henry, a Japanese young man with a Western name, catches the girls’ eyes as he nears them on his motorcycle the friendship shows its fragility. Sunako waves at Henry and feels he’s hers. They talk briefly and soon Henry sees Dora, and she’s pretty (prettier, I’d say). When Sunako pouts, Dora promises to give up Henry. Then the girls go to a church for some reason and discuss their Henry problem. I wasn’t sure what to make of Henry’s Western name or the scenes in the church. The conflict over this boy was true to life, despite the girls’ apparently superficial loyalty to each other.

Eventually Dora and Henry marry. Sunako becomes a low level geisha. She dances with men in Western suits at an establishment where some of the party girls are in Western dress. Sunako’s acquired an admirer who’s something of a pet. He’s a Japanese man who claims to be an artist. He does paint her all the time and he wears a beret, so he must be an artist. He just hangs around her like a moon orbiting the earth. Sunako isn’t rude to him, but she doesn’t seem to care about him that much either. Sunako pouts a lot and Henry starts visiting her at the club. It’s unclear whether he’s there to watch over her or to take advantage of the sleazy (for that era) scene. I think it’s a bit of both. Henry and the man in the beret are a bit jealous of each other. Dora’s pregnant and unaware of Henry’s visits. In time she learns how Sunako’s life has gone down hill from her youth when she wore her innocent school uniform. Sunako smokes, pouts and looks sullen quite a bit. It’s amazing that her customers would spend time with her.

Sunako and a friend who works at the same bar

Sunako and a friend who works at the same bar

I can’t recommend the movie. It had potential, but was rather sentimental and dated. I think you could do a lot with this story even with the constraints of an era when sex wasn’t openly depicted.

Evidently, Shimizu is a popular director and contemporary of Ozu. I think Ozu’s a lot better. Shimizu was able to crank out films and made over 100 in 40 some years. I am more impressed by quality rather than quantity. To really decide what I think about Shimizu, I’d need to see a talkie and understand any themes or symbols I might have missed in this one.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. coastalcrone
    Feb 25, 2014 @ 13:40:23

    I tried to imagine this story as a silent movie – interesting review. Have a good school year!

    Reply

    • smkelly8
      Feb 26, 2014 @ 06:06:14

      Thanks for the good wishes. The first week is always so busy, and this time three teachers (of ten) have had food poisoning issues. Fingers crossed that that doesn’t happen to m.

      Reply

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