“Always - the sunset at 3rd street”
For the last four years usually in the middle of May the Japanese Embassy in Bratislava in cooperation with the Japan foundation has organized a Japanese film festival. During a week the spectators get the opportunity to watch every day 1 or 2 Japanese movies for free in a smaller alternative cinema in the city center. The movies are shown in Japanese with English subtitles. Whenever possible I go there as well to refresh the great memories I have from my stayings in Japan. This year I managed to attend 3 movies, probably the big majority of non Japanese have never heard of them. The first one called “Day for two” (Futaribiyori) wasn’t really my case showing the life evening of a Japanese old couple living in an old quarter in Kyoto. I found the second movie with the name “The samurai of the dusk” (Tasogare Seibei) more interesting, the story of a samurai widower with 2 little daughters who doesn’t want to fight anymore but his society forces him to do so.
The whole story was settled in a beautiful historical village scenery.
Me in front of the Meiji shrine.
But my favorite movie was the last one. I’m sure the organizers set in on the end of the film week in purpose as it won 12 from 13 of the Japan Academy Awards in 2005. “Always - the sunset at 3rd street” (Always – Sanchone no yuhi), a nostalgic look on the life of common people living in a little quarter of Tokyo back in the 50’. I’ve been in Tokyo a couple of times myself, but what I saw being there was a modern hectic metropole which is trying to catch up the future before any other city does. Whoever wants to see what the old traditional Japan used to be like, I don’t think Tokyo is the right place anymore.
But in the 50’ the situation was different, the whole country was just recovering from the lost World War II. And that’s the period in that the story takes place, a story of a young girl who comes from the province to the capital to work and live with a car repair shop family connected with the story of a young boy whose mother gave him away and ends up by an unsuccessful writer with a candy shop opposite the same street. A movie full of funny and beautiful moments showing how the life of common people in Tokyo used to be when the technology achievements like a TV or a refrigerator was just appearing in their households.
As it shows certain stages within a longer period, the director used a great trick to show how the time passes by without using any words. On the beginning the young girl arriving in Tokyo notices the construction site of a monument which was supposed to become a new symbol of the city: the Tokyo Tower.
Further the story goes, further the construction works proceed so the spectators get automatically a feeling of the time passing by. On the end of the story all the characters stop their activities to have a look on the finished impressive self-supporting iron monument which looked so lonely at that time without the skyscrapers which appeared next to it later.
Shibuya by night.
The visitors coming to Tokyo for the first time nowadays might wonder when they get closer the tower. It looks so familiar. The answer is easy, it’s actually a copy of the Eiffel Tower in Paris painted in red (officially orange, haha) and white. Aaaand, (the Japanese are proud of this fact obviously) it’s 13 meters higher then the original.
Want some more facts about it? The tower construction weighs “ridiculous” 4.000 tons (Eiffel Tower weighs 7.000 tons) and 28.000 liters of white and “orange” paint were used, which were chosen according to the aviation safety regulations. Maybe they should repaint the Eiffel Tower, hmmm. Except for the observatory, different shops and restaurants, the visitors are offered here an aquarium, a wax museum or a trick art gallery. It’s like a small amusement park actually.
Back to the movie, watching the story reminded me how different Japanese behave and react then Europeans or Americans do in different situations. When Japanese boys or men don’t know any further they often scratch their head or dishevel their hair like crazy.
If I do that with my hair in front of my friends they would think I became a case for a psychiatrist, hehe. Or can you imagine to kick the postman because he makes a little joke about something related to you? In Japan it’s very common to hit your friends or your subordinates no matter if it’s because of real anger or just because of fun. Sometimes I have the feeling that the old Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton slapstick still survives in the country of the rising sun.
Tokyo Tower by night.
Another thing is the intonation. Japanese rise up the volume of their voices often from one moment to another when something irritates or get them angry. It’s like little temper explosions in the calm see of the common Japanese behavior. In general the presentation of emotions in Japanese movies seemed to me always a bit exaggerated, especially in the case of men. Well, it might come from the really expressive traditional “kabuki” theatre where the actors speak and show expressions with their faces in a very exaggerated way.
Here even the female roles were always played by men. I don’t know, it’s just an idea.
The Japanese film festival in Bratislava ended this year already, according to the number of spectators that came to watch the movies the organizers can consider the project as a big success again. Let’s see what they’re going prepare for us next year. I’m looking forward to it.