Stuck in a back-alley fish shop: Kinoshita’s 1956 “Yûyake-gumo”

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I don’t think that “Farewell to Dream” is grammatical: it should be “Farewell to Dreams.” (or “a dream” or “the dream” or “his dream.”) The dreams are those of 20-year-old Akimoto Yôichi (Tanaka Shinki, who would also play the elder son in “The Naked Island” and appear in half a dozen other Kinoshita movies) had had to abandon a few years earlier (four years, I think) in Konishita’s 1956 movie “Yûyake-gumo.” Yôichi, the eldest son of the owner of a fish shop off in an alley (to which wartime authorities forced him to move; the father curses the war and the government that initiated it) loathes smelling like fish and dreams of being a sailor, like his deceased uncle, rather than becoming a fishmonger. Alas for his occupational dream, his father (Tôno Eijirô sickens and dies, and Yôichi must drop out of school and take over the shop to support his mother (Mochizuki Yukô) and two younger siblings. There are three, but his parents feel they have to let his father’s brother adopt Kazue, on whom Yôichi dotes.

There is an older sister, Toyoko (Kuga Yoshiko [The Idiot, Zero Focus]), who drops her engagement with Sudô (Tamura Takahiro, long before “Empire of Passion”) when she learns that Sudô’s father’s business has failed. She marries a richer older man, while continuing to see Sudô, scandalizing Yôichi and his parents. She does nothing to raise her younger siblings.

He and his best friend, Harada Seiji (Ôno Ryôhei) had been watching an ailing young woman across town through Yôichi’s binoculars. They track her down just as she is leaving to be married. And the final blow to Yôichi’s happiness is that Seiji’s father is being transferred to Hokkaido, so that his friend is also wrenched away from him.

Though it turns out he is much better at cutting fish (into sashimi) than his father, Yôichi is keenly aware that what he cared about is unobtainable and what he hoped to become will not be. He is a resigned, dutiful son (very unlike his self-centered older sister).

That’s it for story. Yôichi’s life chances are few, but he is able to forestall the family’s impoverishment and is not crushed like the female victims in many Mizoguchi and Naruse films. The acting is impeccable and showing all the disappointments take only 78 minutes of running time.

The movie looks good, especially when it gets out of the fish shop and flat above it. Credit, as usual, Kinoshita’s brother-in-law, Kusuda Hiroshi. And in contrast to many other Kinoshita-directed movies, the sentimental music provided by his brother Chûji seems appropriate to Yôichi’s melancholy.

 

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

 

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