29 October 2019 | topitimo-829-270459
Standard romance among the working people
"Hana wa itsuwarazu" (1941) is the second directorial work by Shochiku's Oba Hideo. Oba had previously worked as an assistant director to Shimizu Hiroshi and penned films for Shimazu Yasujiro. In this early effort, he is not stylistically very far from either, but then again all Shochiku directors resemble each other to a point. The film is an everyday romance for younger audiences, full of clean, ideal human beings.
The film opens with a girl arriving to Tokyo and getting a job as a stenographer. In the same company works a nice guy, who takes her out to have tea. On his way out, he finds another woman's purse and returns it to the owner, and the following day he travels to meet his buddy, played by Saburi Shin. What he have then is two romances, that played through in 70 minutes time.
I have a couple of issues with this type of wartime pictures. First is the lack of individuality in the characters. Nobody has personal traits or anything that would make characters in one movie distinguishable from the characters played by the same actors in other movies. This makes a film like this feel disposable. The second issue is that Japanese people did not include any sort of physical signs of intimacy in their movies at the time. Kissing was allowed only after 1947. So a movie like this, that would ideally feel romantic, is burdened by the fact that all it can show characters doing is walking and talking. Of course for good directors, getting to leave stuff for the viewer's imagination would not be a problem.
What's nice about this movie is the fact that there were outdoor-scenes in and around Tokyo. Many Shochiku productions from the same time, such as Ozu's "Todake no kyodai" (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family, 1941) and Mizoguchi's "Genroku Chûshingura" (The 47 Ronin, 1941) take mostly place indoors, because this was easier to stage during wartime. Hence they feel a bit stuffy at times, even thought their artistic merit heavily out-weights easy-going pictures like this one.