Passing Fancy

"Very Good"

Passing Fancy Review


One of several early silent family comedies by Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu released by the Criterion Collection, Passing Fancy is a delightful little tale with charming performances and lots of prewar Japanese atmosphere to soak in.

Ne'er-do-well single dad Kihachi (Takeshi Sakamoto) hates his boring brewery work and would much rather spend his afternoons drinking sake with Otome (Chouko Lida), the widow who runs the restaurant next door, and his work buddy Jiro (Den Obinata). Kihachi isn't much of a father figure to his impish son Tomio (Tomio Aoki), a smart but wild kid who shows his disrespect for his dad by striking funny Karate Kid martial arts poses in front of him.

The daily routines of the scruffy working-class neighborhood are thrown off by the arrival of Harue (Nobuko Fushimi), a beautiful young woman looking to start a new life in Tokyo. Otome immediately takes her in and Kihachi tries to woo her, but even he admits he's too old for her and that Jiro would be a better match. But Jiro shows no interest. Meanwhile, Tomio feels threatened by Harue's arrival, and he acts up even more than usual. "I hate girl trouble," says Kihachi. "Seeking love is like climbing a waterfall," opines Otome.

This mini-domestic drama plays out in predictable ways, but it's not the plot that's the attraction here. What's much more interesting are the amusing details with which Ozu fills every frame. The movie begins with a great scene at a storyteller's performance where a coin purse is dropped and various members of the audience pick it up to rifle through it, only to toss it aside when they discover it's empty. Each time someone tosses it, someone else picks it up to check it out, until Kihachi, noticing it's bigger than his, transfers his coins into it and tosses his own coin purse to the floor.

Later, in a fit of pique, little Tomio trashes Dad's beloved plant, and when Kihachi asks if he did it, Tomio bravely tells the truth, just like George Washington when he chopped down the cherry tree, the boy haughtily explains. "Aw, what's so great about the truth?" grumbles Kihachi.

It's also funny to observe that throughout the film, almost every character is constantly scratching himself as if to indicate that all of old Edo is infested with fleas. Even when Tomio is crying hysterically he takes a moment to thoughtfully scratch his chest and shins, and Kihachi is always mopping his brow with a small towel he keeps perched atop his head in old Japanese style. It's a rough life in this paper-walled slum, but life does go on happily, as long as everyone maintains low expectations.

Film school types will take note of Ozu trademarks that came to full fruition much later making early appearances here, most notably the floor-level shots and the interesting pillow shots (Ozu has a thing for giant natural gas storage tanks). The addition of a bouncy piano score makes Passing Fancy a fun 100 minutes.

Aka Dekikogoro.

I've got an itch.



Passing Fancy

Facts and Figures

Run time: 120 mins

Production compaines: Shôchiku Eiga

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 5.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: Takeshi Sakamoto as Kihachi, Nobuko Fushimi as Harue, Den Obinata as Jiro, Chôko Iida as Otome, Tomio Aoki as Tomio (as Tokkankozo), Reikô Tani as Barber, as Man on boat, Hideo Sugawara as Boy taunting Tomio

Also starring:

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