4 October 2019 | topitimo-829-270459
Yamada's Return to the Themes of "Where the Spring Comes Late"
In 1970, director Yamada Yoji and many of his Otoko wa tsurai yo -colleagues took a break from the long franchise, and made "Kazoku" (Where the Spring Comes Late). That film dealt with the plight of the Japanese poor, and their difficulty in finding a living for themselves. In "Furusato" (Home From the Sea, 1972), Yamada returns to these themes, with almost exactly the same cast. However, this is not a sequel, or a prequel, because the characters have different names. Instead, this is a thematic sibling to "Kazoku", and for the most part, just as good.
The film depicts a vanishing way of life and an island, that slowly loses population because there is no work. Our main characters are a family that make a living by transporting rocks with their ship. This is hard, manual work, and because of the long distances, it really doesn't make much of a profit for the husband and wife team, played by "Kazoku" stars Igawa Hisashi and Baisho Chieko. They are looking for other options, but this might mean they have to leave the island, where their families have lived for generations. Also their marriage is not going too well because of all the stress.
My only problem with "Kazoku" was, that Yamada could not keep up the tone of the tragic film, but instead opted to have comedic relief every now and then, mostly in forms of cameos by Tora-san actors. This film also has those actors, but it does not feel like a novelty. Baisho Chieko and Ryu Chishu again turn in good performances, but I was most surprised by Atsumi Kiyoshi's great supporting role. He has a lot of heart and really made the film better with his presence.
Yamada is always nostalgic in his style, but in this film the nostalgia is brooding. The director manages to look at tradition both fondly, and as a burden. The film depicts the Japanese archipelago beautifully, and makes the audience sad about the cost of modernization. Yamada's stab at "mono no aware" is more heavy-handed than Ozu's, but he does make this a highly emotional experience, even if the lead characters aren't as well fleshed-out as in "Kazoku". This is one of his career high-points.