14 November 2019 | boblipton
Masayuki Mori came out of the War at loose ends. For half a decade he has had no ambition except to find Yoshiko Kuga. They had loved each other, but he had just graduated from the Naval Academy and was going to war; her father had arranged a marriage, and with a difficult stepmother, she had accepted. The marriage was a failure, the husband had died, and More had been looking for her in a desultory fashion since.
Now things are looking up for him. An old friend has a business writing letters for the girlfriends of US soldiers returned stateside, asking for money. With Mori's Academy education, he turns out effective letters, and works with his brother, whose business is buying the latest American books and magazines cheap and selling them at cover price, Because they are airmailed to service personnel, these goods are available before the standard importers can put them out. Mori is happy, practicing his craft, until he overhears his partner writing a letter for Miss Kuga.
It's Kinuyo Tanaka's first time as director, and working with a script co-written by Keisuke Kinoshita, there's a sharp and disapproving paradox at its heart. Mori disapproves of Miss Kuga's failure to adhere to traditional Japanese values, and rants at her the popular anti-American sentiments of the day, even as he and his brother participate in other aspects of the trade. There's a message of forgiveness, but it's tinged with self-loathing and misogyny; Mori's living situation with a male friend, who cleans his clothes and puts him to bed when he's drunk has a homosexual tinge to it.
Still, the performances are sharp, the camerawork is fine, and there's one sequence in which Miss Kuga encounters Jûzô Dôsan, Mori's brother, in which the conversation is punctuated with their umbrellas that is a delight.