Another outing with the mid-1950s Kinoshita/Shochiko Studio repertory company. The Japanese title of the 1955 weepie, “Tôi kumo” means “Distant Clouds,” but the American edition takes its title from Gide’s Strait Is the Gate, “Tattered Wings.”
It is another story of love persisting and that not being enough to lead to happiness. The redoubtable Takamine Hideko, in this outing named Fumyuko, again suffers for social conventions. Before the war, she loved Keizô (Tamura Takahiro), who loved her, but because her family needed money, she married into the Terada family, owners of a distillery in Takayama. Her husband routinely cheated on her and criticized her relentlessly. He left her (pregnant?) with a daughter when he went off to war, not to return.
Her dutiful brother-in-law, Shunsuke (Sada Keiji again subordinating personal feeling, particularly jealousy, trying to do the right thing by everyone) is set to propose marriage. Keizô passes through before taking up a position in Hokkaido (from which he will not be able to return for any visits for at least two years? I only report what he said). He is pained to hear of her husband’s infidelity and brutality. He hoped that if he gave her up, she would be happy—and that having not been happy without him, she can yet be happy with him, that they can make a new start.
Though the two do nothing other than talk to each other, salacious gossip about an affair booms, and Fuuyko’s sister (who has loved Keizô as long as KeizIo has loved Fuyuko) undertakes filling in Shunsuke with the scandal (knowing that he loves her sister). Will she stay with the only Terada child (that is, her daughter) or finally go off with Keizô?
There is another illicit romance involving Ryô (Ishihama Akira) and the daughter of the blacksmith to whom he has been apprenticed. And film of local festival. The movie begins by following a train through the countryside (presumably the one bearing Keizô to Takayama) back and ends in the train station (with Keizô on board a train that will take him to Tokyo, form where he will head off to Hokkaido).
As Usual, Takamine and Sada behave properly and hide their emotions from public view, though these are clear enough to viewers of the movie.
In Gide’s novella, the writer’s surrogate, Jerome, does not notice that while he focuses on one very-proper(/puritanical) young woman, her sister is the one who really loves him. Keizô is rereading the book, which Fuyuko lent him before her marriage to the Terada scion.
The persistence of desire even after bowing to the loss of a beloved to marriage is definitely a Kinoshita leitmotif. And, as usual, I am more appreciative of the cinematography of Kusuda Hiroshi than of the music of Kinoshita Chûji, though is is less intrusive in this movie than in some others.
©2016, Stephen O. Murray