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Archive for January 11th, 2013

Kanzashi dvd

A young soldier named Nanmura is on holiday at a beautiful mountain resort with a group of neighbourhood friends from Tokyo which includes a grumpy professor who’s fed up of the constant noise from the various groups that arrive, a married couple and a grandfather with his 2 bored granchildren. As Nanmura is bathing in one of the onsens, he accidentally steps on something which turns out to be an ornamental hairpin. He has to delay returning to his army unit until he has recovered sufficently as he is hobbling badly on crutches. He doesn’t make a big deal of the accident and graciously accepts the management’s apologies. Somehow the owner of the hairpin named Emi is found and a letter sent to her in Tokyo. Sending a letter back with an apology she states she is coming to the resort to personally say sorry to the soldier. Nanmura says to his friends that the accident was “poetic” which makes the Professor wonder if the young soldier wishes for the woman when she arrives to be beautiful. When she does finally turn up and is attractive, the Professor and the rest try to see if Emi and Nanmura will become romantically involved. Emi does her best to help Nanmura with his rehabilitation and seems reluctant to return to Tokyo. Why does she not want to go back there and what will she do once Nanmura is well again and ready to leave?

Kanzashi screenshot

This is the first time for me to see one of director Hiroshi Shimizu’s movies. I don’t think he’s that well known outside of Japan. When you usually talk about classic Japanese directors you sort of know the usual suspects that are going to be mentioned will be Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Naruse and Ozu but not Hiroshi Shimizu. It was nice to be exposed to a movie by a director that I knew very little about and one that I enjoyed very much. Many have said his movies bear a similarity to that of Ozu in his slice of life dramas but also the way he shot his movies as well which is no surprise as they were both friends. Sadly though it seems they only remember Ozu’s movies and not his. The plot is a relatively simple romantic drama with a touch of sadness about it. I’m actually wrong to call it a drama as there isn’t any drama of sorts. The majority of the story focuses on Nanmura and the daily exercises that he does to strengthen his foot. Two boys Taro and Jiro are constantly encouraging him to beat his previous days’ effort out in a small wood with Emi also quietly urging him on from the sidelines. Whilst the supporting characters are trying in their own little way to get Emi and Nanmura to become a couple, we see that neither one of them is bold enough to ask each other out. You can see there’s a spark of some sort between the two of them. She shows how much she likes Nanmura by carrying him on her back when he falls over whilst trying to cross a precarious bridge across a river. There are numerous other small episodes in the movie such as Professor Katae getting increasingly agitated by the various groups of people that are visiting the resort and making a lot of noise coupled with the fact that each time he wants a masseur to relieve his stress there isn’t any available as the other groups have taken them which makes him even more annoyed! There is some comedy in this movie – one such scene has the two boys rooting for their grandfather to beat Professor Katae in a snoring contest which is fairly amusing. The cinematography of the movie is excellent. I have no idea where in the Izu Peninsula they filmed this movie but the location is so idyllic and beautiful near a river. There’s a hint of what was going on in Japan at the time of the movie’s release being addressed by the Professor when he mentions about food shortages although no mention of the war is uttered by any of the characters. Maybe Shimizu made this movie for the Japanese people to forget about what was going on in the real world and transport them to a garden of eden paradise just for a short amount of time.

The performances from the cast are great and look very natural. Kinuyo Tanaka who I’ve seen in several Kenji Mizoguchi movies is brilliant in her role as Emi. The viewer is made to wonder at first just why would she come all of the way from Tokyo to say sorry to Nanmura but gradually as the movie wears on and her friend visits her to try and persuade her to return we are made aware of her background and that she isn’t happy with her life in the big city as a geisha. In the countryside surroundings she seems to have found her place and vows never to return to her old life but at the end when everbody including Nanmura has left the resort to go back to their normal lives she is left all alone, looking lost and forlorn whilst walking around. It is not known as the movie ends what her future holds. I also felt that the character of Nanmura played by Chisu Ryu was a very undeveloped character. He doesn’t have to do much in the movie and Tatsuo Saitô as Professor Katae had a bigger role than him. He comes across as such a grumpy man but his heart is in the right place. The effort he makes to change everybody’s sleeping arrangements so that Emi and Nanmura can be closer to each other rooms’ shows how much he wants the two to have a proper romantic relationship.

Ornamental Hairpin only runs for 70 mins but in that short time there is much to enjoy in this movie. It has made me now want to take a look at Shimizu’s other works which I’m sure to do in the coming months ahead. Recommended.

There’s no trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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