Wednesday, June 26, 2019

A Growing Horse

A boy named Jiro bonds with a horse he raised from a foal in 1955's The Phantom Horse (幻の馬). The mild melodrama in the foreground is overshadowed by the beautiful Eastmancolor cinematography; the film's best quality is its footage of rural Japan in the changing seasons.

The story begins in winter with the foal's birth. Jiro (Yukihiro Iwatare) and his friends are excited and we see the group of boys running around a lot throughout the film. An amusing and cinematically impressive scene sees the boys running after Jiro across the countryside after Jiro merely says, enigmatically, "Trouble!"

Along the way, an old man asks a boy in the rear why they're running to which the boy can only repeat the single word. The old man is asked by another adult and then a policeman until a whole group of concerned adults catch up to Jiro in the stable only to find out "trouble" meant Jiro had forgotten to feed the horse that day. Jiro names the horse Takeru, meaning "wild".

The seasons pass, Takeru grows up and eventually goes to Tokyo to compete in the races. The beautiful Ayako Wakao stars as Jiro's elder sister who's in charge of the family after the death of their father but the film primarily centres on Jiro. The story never becomes especially complex and it's hard to believe it was submitted to Cannes five years after Rashomon caused a sensation. But Phantom Horse isn't a bad experience; it's very pleasant. It's available on The Criterion Channel.

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