Kinoshita’s nouveau-riche family comedy “A Broken Drum” (1949)



There is some LOL stuff in the 1949 Kinoshita sitcom, “A Broken Drum” (Yabure-daiko), about a paper tiger/ogre (Bandô Tsumasaburô) scheming to raise money to save his construction company. One of his tactics is to marry his daughter Nobuko (Higashiyama Chieko) off for a two-million-yen brideprice. She chooses to model for a painter to whom her father was rude on a train and who has cupid-like parents. Among Nobuko’s siblings are one who wants to become an actor, one who wants to become a physician, and one who writes songs (the director’s brother Chûji, who wrote the music for most Kinoshita movies), including one about a father who is like a broken drum.

The eldest son rebels at being his father’s lieutenant and starts a company of his own, making music boxes. He leaves, followed by his mother, four of his siblings, and a servant. The father refuses to acknowledge that any of these desertions of his sinking ship bothers him, though he is hurt.


I don’t like the songs (as is the case for many Kinoshita movies, which seem to include groups singing together more than in movies by other Japanese directors), and they play a prominent part with young people singing herein.

The bass line of a family business in financial straits  was reprised in  “Fireworks over the Sea”  in 1951. The madcap family prefigures the one in what I consider Kinoshita’s best comedy, the 1960 “Spring Dreams.” “A Broken Dum” is somewhat unusual in the Kinoshita oeuvre in having both parents alive, though not unique in having the father being an unpleasant and very intolerant person. (The extent to which this was conscious rejection of the patriarchy that got Japan’s imperial project overextended is not clear to me, but is at least a strong possibility following upon “Army”  and “Morning for the Osone Family.”  Father did not know best, and is repeatedly held up to ridicule, although he relaxes a bit of his rigidity to make for a happy ending here.)


©2016, Stephen O. Murray

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