Saturday, July 11, 2009

Delinquency as Disease

Last night's tweets;

No-one knows a cure for delinquency.
No-one in Second Life speaks English now.
Schwarzenegger's on E.T.'s frequency.
Deanna Troi was a real tranquil frau.

I watched Kenji Mizoguchi's 1936 film, Osaka Elegy last night. Like his Sisters of the Gion, another of his films from the era, this one demonstrates how women are pinioned by a network of society's subtle mechanisms in 1930s Japan. It's a melodramatic tale of a young woman who's gradually forced into being a sort of high class prostitute as the pressure of her father's debts leds her to become the mistress of two wealthy men.

The movie stars a young Isuzu Yamada, who somewhat resembles a young Joan Crawford, and, combined with the film's plot, I couldn't help thinking of Crawford's string of "shopgirl" movies in the 1930s, which typically featured Crawford as a poor, working class woman who faces the dilemma of exchanging her virtue for a more comfortable lifestyle. But the steps shown in Osaka Elegy down the path of social disgrace are considerably more credible, despite cumulatively amounting to a melodrama. Because each step is believable, the brutal conclusion works like the end of a good film noir--Yamada's character is no femme fatale, she's more like the poor schmuck noir lead who tried to do the right thing but just had one too many turns of bad luck with her riskier decisions.

Yamada would later become a Kurosawa regular, her most memorable performance perhaps being the Lady Macbeth character is Throne of Blood, Kurosawa's adaptation of Macbeth. But Osaka Elegy also features a far more prominent Kurosawa regular, Takashi Shimura, in a tiny role as a police detective. Maybe it's the weight of the later movies preceding him for me, but even in such a brief role, I couldn't help noticing what a presence he already was onscreen. He doesn't even get a single close-up, but he managed to communicate so much from a distance.

I walked to Tim's yesterday and I think I'm still a bit tired from it. The DMV's lagged on sending me my car registration, so I'm walking everywhere. One of the reasons I went to the zoo on Thursday was that was my last day with a motor vehicle. Here're a few more clips from that trip;

The music's "Madiana" by Josephine Baker.

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