Chi Wa Kawaiteru (1960)

In the dystopian world of Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), the death of the once-popular TV personality in front of camera is considered to be the best way to preserve corporate integrity in the face of fierce competition. The price of ‘virtual’ persona sometimes exceeds the price of person’s physical life itself. The idea of a life insurance company exploiting a sensational image of death for marketing their products sounds very promising, but Yoshishige Yoshida’s Chi Wa Kawaiteru (血は渇いてる, 1960) abandons the credibility and nuances in exchange for visual impact.

The story revolves around a business man (Keiji Sata), who tried to commit suicide to protest massive layoffs in his company. He was not a strong-will person and he just wanted the world to know what he thought as unjust. This act caught the attention of mass media, and eventually advertising agency. A young agent from the influential advertising firm decided to exploit this media hype for marketing … life insurance. However, the world was full of dishonest crooks and despicable rogues. This meek man of failed self-sacrifice has less wits than a twelve-year old and even less will-power. He was used and used and used, until … you know, he had to do it again.
The film was released as a bottom half of a double bill with Nagisa Ohsima’s Night and Fog in Japan (日本の夜と霧, 1960). The politically-motivated Ohsima’s film drew both criticism and praise. Then, three days after the premiere, the shock wave trembled through Japan. The Japan Socialist Party leader, Inejiro Asanuma, was assassinated by a young assailant while he was on the stage delivering a speech. The moment of the assault was captured on TV, and aired over and over. Under this turbulent moment in the political arena, Shochiku considered the Oshima’s film ‘inappropriate’, and pull the entire program abruptly. So, Yoshida’s film went under with it.
Because of this unfortunate event and infamous Ohshima’s film, Yoshida’s film drew little attention. The film is quite unique among Yoshida’s works. It is sensationalistic and melodramatic. Many of the actors simply over-react. Their characters are not only uninteresting, but simply annoying. The scripts are overloaded with cliche, and they are delivered with even less finesse. Only striking thing about the film is its starking visuals. Especially the image of a man holding a pistol to his head. What I suspect is that maybe Yoshida was too obsessed with this image and made the whole film around it. When the huge advertisement panel of this image is taken down from the company building, the image itself is awesome. However, it doesn’t have much substance in it. Strangely, the whole film seems like the advertisement of sensationalism. 
Chi Wa Kawaiteru  (血は渇いてる, 1960)
Produced by Takeshi Sasaki
Written and Directed by Yoshishige Yoshida
Starring Keiji Sata, Kaneko Iwasaki, Shinichiro Mikami
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Cinematography by Toichiro Narushima

Hakone-Yama (1963)

“Oh, you mean, the next trend will be to live in the slower pace, in this age of hectic pace.”
– Kouemon (Shuji Sano)
This film is about nothing but a hectic pace of modern life. Crisply photographed, edited and directed, Yuzo Kawashima’s Hakone-Yama (1963) drives you through the world of highly-charged competition among corporations. It is fast, loud, vulgar, and mean. It is loosely based on the actual event at the time. It is timely, sensational and dirty. Most of all, it is energetic.

Since 1950s, Hakone had been the stage for fierce corporate competition. The place was and is the most celebrated resort area in Japan, and, being located within the reach of train ride from Tokyo, the most popular. Since the travel-business conglomerates wanted to monopolize the business in the area, they laid highways, built hotels after hotels, created parks, owned express trains, and operated buses and cable cars. Seibu-group and Odakyu-group, modern-day Capulets and Montagues, each had their own line of business and their employees were fiercely loyal. While their bus drivers and conductors physically and verbally fought each other at the bus terminals, their directors displayed the urbane corporatism in the Congressional committee hearings. Then another, much larger conglomerate, Tokyu, one of the most powerful train operators and real estate developers in Kanto area, decided to eat much larger piece of the pie. In the film, the names of these conglomerates were slightly altered but obvious nonetheless. But the main action takes place in the much smaller venue. Two (fictional) traditional Japanese style bed-and-breakfast inns in Hakone were also in fierce competition. They had been so for more than 150 years. Chieko Toyama (Tokyo Story) of Tama-ya has not been in speaking terms with Shuji Sano (There Was a Father) and Kuniko Miyake (Ohayo), the owner couple of Wakamatsu-ya, and Yuzo Kayama and Yuriko Hoshi are our Romeo and Juliet. Kayama, a young handyman of the Tama-ya inn, is sharp and intelligent, but under-educated because of his complicated background. Hoshi, an opinionated young high-school girl, is gradually attracted to Kayama, and finds her parents stubbornness old-fashioned. Then this balance of antagonism between two Inns changes when Tama-ya loses one of its building due to fire. Furthermore, one of the travel conglomerates wants to recruit Kayama. Suddenly, the future of Tama-ya is uncertain.
Although the film loses its initial velocity in the latter half, it is still driven by the group of superb casts. Shuji Sano has never been more obnoxious than this amateur historian/inn owner. He is ultimately an scheming opportunist and so is his wife, Kuniko Miyake. Eijiro Tono, playing the hot-blooded king of Tokyu conglomerate, is at the top of his form. As an insanely vulgar capitalist, he sputters his words and spits his commands like a cockroach in hot tropics. However, he is so real and believable. He even gargles as he drinks tea! But the winner in this film is Chieko Toyama. Most of you remember her as a soft-spoken aging mother in Ozu’s Tokyo Story. Here her manners are similar, but fundamentally different. Her portrait of a mild-mannered stubborn old hag, with all the melodramatic gestures with delicate subtlety, excels anything I have ever seen. It is so good that you just love this old faker.
This film is not yet made into DVD even in Japan. But if you find this film in the festival or in local theater, don’t miss it. Just looking at those insane characters is worth an admission.
Hakone-Yama (箱根山, 1962) 
Directed by Yuzo Kawashima
Written by Toshiro Ide and Yuzo Kawashima, Based on the novel by Bunroku Shishiko 
Cinematography by Rokuro Nishigaki
Starring Yuzo Kayama, Yuriko Hoshi, Shuji Sano, Chieko Toyama, Kuniko Miyake


Copyrighted materials, if any, on this web page are included as “fair use”. These are used for the purpose of research, review or critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).