Another film in Criterion’s Nikkatsu (Studio) set is I am Waiting (1957). Directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara, I am Waiting tells the story of an ex-boxer who rescues a young woman from suicide. She couldn’t take working at a mobster’s low-end bar anymore. Her savior offers her a safe place to live and work at his restaurant. She gets happier, and calmer.
This nice guy dreams of joining his brother in Brazil, where the brother has bought a farm. Time passes and there’s no word from the brother. About the time the nice guy, whom we learn was a prize-fighter reveals that he wants to escape his guilt for killing a man in a fist fight. The club owner any lackeys find a girl at the restaurant. This mobster figures the girl owes him two years worth of work performing in his club. Despite her disgust, she agrees to return to protect the nice guy.
Then the guy starts retracing his brother’s footsteps and discovers the brother never got on the ship to Brazil. The nice guy deducts if there’s a connection between his brother’s disappearance and the mobsters.
I enjoyed the plot in performances particularly those of the lead man and woman. The film never got sappy or simpleminded it’s portrayal of this couple. I wouldn’t call this a thriller, it was definitely noir with plenty of dark, inky shadows.
The story was absorbing and my heart went out to all the beautiful losers, nice guy, the girl he rescued and the doctor cum mentor,who drank too much.
Part of a collection of Japanese noir films, Rusty Knife (1958) packs a punch. A relentless D.A. won’t give up on getting justice for a murder that was wrongly categorized as a suicide. He hunts down two reformed gangsters, who witnessed the murder as other yakuza (Japanese mobsters) killed a city official. One of the witnesses now owns a bar and has turned over a new leaf. However, the guilty and anger towards these gangsters who brutally raped and murdered his true love. As the D.A. urges him, the reformed gangster pursues the yakuza and seeks revenge.
The emotions run high and the plot has some great fight scenes. The plot offers plenty of surprises. I recommend this film and would certainly watch more of director Toshio Masuda’s films.
Kusama Infinity is a documentary about the pop artist Yayoi Kusama. Proceeding in chronological order, the film begins with information on Kusama’s youth and her struggle to become an artist when her mother would tear up her work and she received no encouragement from her parents. Despite the restrictions for traveling abroad or taking money out of Japan in the 1960s, Kusama does leave for New York where she strives to make it in the art world, which was dominated by Western men.
We see her geometric art, full of simple circles and lines, which represent infinity. We see how she uses mirrors and mirror balls to delight and memorize. We learn about her disappointing relationships, her depression and the people who supported her.
Yet after an hour I felt the film was dragging and I tired of the 1960s-70s avant garde scene. I wished there was some acknowledgment that while she had her struggles, Kusama did receive a great deal of acclaim, freedom and wealth.
Just a few Japanese ukiyo-e paintings from the Weston Collection Ukiyo-e exhibition now at the Art Institute of Chicago. Ukiyo-e’s depict the life of pleasure and leisure of musicians, geishas and concubines.
Expect me to share more of these in the days to come.
Though I can’t stand Japanese sweet bean paste, the movie Sweet Bean is another story. Loner Senato runs a snack shop in Tokyo where he makes and sells pancakes stuffed with sweet bean paste when one day Tokue, a cute old lady, comes along and begs for a job. She begs to for a job, but he’s sure at 76 she’s unable to do the lifting and hard work he needs.
When she comes by again bearing a batch of the most incredibly delicious sweet bean paste Sentaro has ever tasted, he relents and hires her. The next morning she’s there at 4 am to make the beans replacing the canned glop used before. Soon there’s a line around the block for the snacks.
Wakana, a student whose single mom wants her to stop studying and get a job, is drawn to this pair of loners. She shows how wonderful friendship is with someone much older. She shares her dreams and memories with Tokue and keeps Sentaro on the right path regarding sticking up for Tokue.
In the midst of the business’ success, the shop’s meddling owner pops in and insists Sentaro fire Tokue because her knobbled hands are due to leporasy. She’s a health risk. She’s got to go.
The film goes into new territory and explores friendship, loyalty and isolation in a beautiful way. I loved this film. My only quibble is that I wanted to know what happens with Wakana. Even though I still can’t choke down a sweet bean pancake and highly recommend this movie.