Shinoda’s 1960 debut, “One-Way Ticket to Love”

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The title of the first (1960) movie directed by Shinoda Mashiro (who was born in 1931), “Koi no katamichi kippu,” is the Japanese translation of the Neil Sedaka 1959 hit (especially in Japan) song “One-Way Ticket to Love.” The song is the big hit of rising singer Ueno Susumu (Hirai Masaaki in his only credited screen appearance), whose management company has promoted him as “the Japanese Elvis,” rather than the apter “the Japanese Neil Sedaka.” Although restive and bored by his teeny-bopper fans, Ueno does pretty much what he is told.

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I think that the movie’s protagonist is the alto saxophone player Shirai Kenji, who is initially hired by agent Yushinaga (Otori Yachiyo) to play slow rumba music with a percussionist for an illegal and literally underground sex show. It is raided before sex is consummated by the dancers, but Shirai makes a sufficient impression on Miss Yushinaga to be hired to join a band managed by the same company.

Buoyed by having been paid and getting a job, on his way home Shirai sees a young woman poised on a trestle, crying. He dissuades her from jumping (the drop does not seem to me sufficient to be fatal, unless she landed in front of a train), and takes her back to the tiny apartment he shares with a musician who gave up and has become a low-ranking yakusa. His roommate is obliging and willing to leave so the couple can, well, couple. Later he will ask Maki to hold onto a package that contains a pistol that he has presumably used in the commission of some crime. I found him an entertaining character, but his criminal career is one of many loose ends.

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Eventually, after being coerced into Ueno’s bed by their manipulative managers (even though Miss Yoshinaga has been bedding him), Ueno, the married man she left, Tajima (Satake Akio), and Shirai all tell her that they love her, attestations for which she has only contempt. She tells Shirai that Tajima took the gun and is probably going to try to shoot Ueno at his big concert (prefiguring “Nashville” and “The Manchurian Candidate,” perhaps influenced by the Albert Hall search for the assassin in “The Man Who Knew Too Much”?). Things in the concert hall filled with screaming teeny-boppers takes an odd turn and the ending is rushed, leaving most everything unresolved.

Although Shôchiku executives initially liked the movie, it failed at the box office and Shinoda was forced to work on projects (with weak scripts) assigned by the studio for several years.

Despite the affectlessness (even whey they are crying!) of Mitsuko and Kenji and stuffing way too many plot lines into an 82-minute movie that included multiple musical numbers, I rather liked the movie. It definitely looked very impressive, beginning a productive collaboration between director Shinoda and cinematographer Kosugi Masao with many more portrayals of dutiful Japanese masochism and of individuals crushed by Japanese cultural/legal codes.

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

 

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