Izu no odoriko
- 1h 27m
Adapted from a famous short story in Japan, The Izu Dancer is the story of a male teenager on vacation in the Izu peninsula who encounters a thirteen-year-old girl who is part of a travellin... Read allAdapted from a famous short story in Japan, The Izu Dancer is the story of a male teenager on vacation in the Izu peninsula who encounters a thirteen-year-old girl who is part of a travelling troupe of performers. The boy and the girl are attracted to one another and make certain... Read allAdapted from a famous short story in Japan, The Izu Dancer is the story of a male teenager on vacation in the Izu peninsula who encounters a thirteen-year-old girl who is part of a travelling troupe of performers. The boy and the girl are attracted to one another and make certain they spend time together given the short few days they have.
This story has been filmed many times and I've seen four versions of it. The most faithful adaptation is an animated half-hour made in 1986 as part of the "Animated Classics of Japanese Literature" TV series. It was short (like the story) and needed less padding than the other versions. It's also the only version I've seen with subtitles. The other versions I've seen are all live-action and include two feature films (1963 and 1974) and a 50-minute TV drama made in 2002 as part of a 3-part special called "Shinshun! Love Stories," which is listed nowhere on IMDb.
The 1963 version is easily the most beautifully crafted of the three live-action versions I've seen. There are spectacular natural backdrops and picturesque villages depicting this unusual mix of the traditional and the modern. It was clearly set in the early 20th century, but at times the setting looks hundreds of years older. Sayuri Yoshinaga, the actress who plays Kaoru, the dancing girl, was 17 when she made this, but is coiffed and made up to look the right age for the character. She has a radiant, affectionate quality that would almost certainly enchant a young, single man on a meandering vacation trip. She is also a graceful and attractive dancer when seen performing with her family for paying customers. In one such scene late in the film, following a shattering disappointment experienced in the previous scene, she gives a more frenzied dance than usual, with just a hint of sexual abandon, clearly working out her frustration through her art.
Since it's 86 minutes long, the film has a number of additional scenes that aren't in the original story, including one of ladies gossiping in a public bath to which our student protagonist is an embarrassed hidden witness. Dialogue is added to lots of scenes that are only briefly sketched in the story. The DVD I have is in Japanese with no subtitles, so I couldn't describe what they talk about in the added scenes. Some scenes that originated in this movie were later copied in other versions. There's a bit where the girl picks out a bamboo walking stick for the boy and is then instructed by her brother to find a smaller one, so she dutifully goes back and gets another one. This is found in all three live-action versions I saw, repeated almost verbatim, but is not in the original story nor in the anime. Also, there's a subplot involving the girl's search for a woman who may be a relative (a sister?) and is found in a disreputable location, seriously ill. This subplot is reworked in the subsequent live-action versions, but is not in the original story at all.
In other unique touches, the girl makes origami birds and even tosses one from a window to get the attention of the boy, who then picks it up and keeps it. This is repeated in the 1974 film version, but not in any other version I've seen. There's a nightmare dream sequence in this version involving the girl and an older man which is echoed in the anime, but is not in any other version and has no counterpart in the original story. Also, there's a farewell scene at the waterfront that's extended way beyond what's hinted at in the story. Variations of this expansion are found in every later version, except for a twist in this version that's quite unique.
It should be pointed out, of course, that there are even older film versions of this story that I haven't yet seen that may have introduced some of the elements that weren't in the original story. One version (1954) starred postwar Japanese recording sensation Hibari Misora. An even earlier version (1933) starred acclaimed actress Kinuyo Tanaka.
Ms. Yoshinaga is lively throughout in the role of Kaoru and is quite an appealing and beauteous screen presence. Hideki Takahashi, the handsome actor playing the student, was 18 when he made this, just about the right age. The cinematography and music are quite lovely and all the different elements add up to a very pleasant cinematic experience. There are prologue and epilogue sequences, filmed in black-and-white, featuring an elderly college professor and his encounter with one of his students and the student's girlfriend, also played by Ms. Yoshinaga. It's implied that this encounter triggers the professor's remembrance of his brief encounter with "the Izu dancer." I did a Google image search for pictures of the original author, Yasunari Kawabata, and noted a slight resemblance between him and the professor in the film. So I'm guessing the professor was supposed to represent Kawabata, who was still alive when this film was made.
I have also seen a later version (1974) starring 1970s pop icon Momoe Yamaguchi as the dancer and her frequent co-star/future husband Tomokazu Miura as the student. It's a darker, more melancholy work and I've also reviewed it on this site. The same filmmaker directed both the 1963 and 1974 versions.
- Feb 24, 2012