““Tears on the Lion’s Mane”/ “A Flame at the Pier”

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Titled “A Flame at the Pier” on Hulu, Shinoda’s 1962 “Namida o shishi no tategami ni” is better known in English as “Tears on the Lion’s Mane.” My partner wondered if Fujiki Takashi was presented as the Japanese James Dean. The movie reminded me more of “On the Waterfront” (not just because of being set among longshoremen and gangsters on the Yokohama harbor) with Fujiki’s Sabu channeling a bit of Elvis Presley as well as James Dean and Marlon Brando. Fujiki sings three songs, two ballads accompanying himself on guitar, and a raucous rock song with no accompaniment but a lot of throwing his body around (not particularly swiveling his narrow hips, more like a the bobbing of a spotted sandpiper).

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Sabu believes that the corrupt businessman Kitani (Nanbara Koji) was crippled saving the four-year-old already orphaned Sabu from flames after a WWII bombing. Though not particularly prepossessing physically, Sabu serves Kitani by beating and killing would-be union leaders among the longshoremen. Sabu kills the father of Yuki (Kaga Mariko), the young woman (who works in a bar) with whom he is in love without intending to (do more than mess him up) and without knowing he was her father. (Yuki sees the potential/latent goodness of Sabu, like Julie Harris does James Dean in “East of Eden,” though Sabu has a cruel father figure rather than a cruel father, like Dean’s character).

 

Sabu is also manipulated by the restless wife of the company’s president, Reiko (the very big-lipped Kishida Kyôko, whom I found quite unattractive physically, besides being totally craven a character). There were striking images, including a number from above, shot by Shinoda regular (Pale Flower, Samurai Spy) Kosugi Masao and there’s a somewhat jazzy (somewhat like Bernstein’s for “On the Waterfront”) Tatkemitsu soundtrack (who did not, I think, write the songs for the movie).

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Though it’s a close call, Sabu is not as stupid and feckless and sullen as Kiyoshi (Nakamura Katsuo [who would later play the frantic spender of “Pleasures of the Flesh”]) in Kinoshita’s 1956 “A Rose on His Arm” (Taiyô to bara). The skinny slacker Kiyoshi caught the eye of Masahiro (Ishihama Akira), the spoiled and vicious son of the owner of the factory where Kiyoshi has been given a job he has no interest in performing or keeping. (How he got a two weeks’ salary advance mystifies me!) Masahiro’s sister Keiko (Kuga Yoshiko), who had an abortion after being raped in the seaside town where Kiyoshi and his hardworking mother (Miyake Kuniko) live, tries to help Kiyoshi without any visible agenda, not that Masahiro’s is visible. Masahiro takes up Kiyoshi, giving him money and clothes… and orders. 1956 audiences may not have noticed an erotic component in Masahiro’s domination/submission play (which becomes fatal).

Class plays a very large role in both movies about juvenile delinquents without the funds for the lifestyles to which they aspire, or the education to attain higher status. Sabu and Kiyoshi are not rebels, but exemplars of Mertonian strain (accepting socially valued status but using illegal means to try to achieve it). Does differential association account for Masahiro’s deviance (I mean criminality rather than homoerotic s&m; he may qualify as being a “rebel”). He already has money and status with no loyalty to respectable society.

 

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

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