In 1941 Japan’s total mobilization for war was still in the future, though its incursions on the mainland (first Manchuria) had already been going on for a decade. There is mention of food shortages in “Ornamental Hairpin” (Kanzashi) directed by Shimizu Hiroshi from a story by Ibuse Masuji, but the movie set in a riverfront spa at which a handful of people were spending the summer, as large groups came for single nights or weekends, irritating Professor Katae (Saitô Tatsuo [who had appeared in various Ozu films, and would go on to “Carmen Falls in Love” and “Lord Jim”). Ryû Chishû was playing his age (36) or someone less than his age, the soldier on leave, a soldier named Osamura. He steps on the titular ornamental hairpin in an outdoor hot spring pool and hobbles through the rest of the summer.
The woman who lost it, geisha Eni (Tanaka Kinuyo) who had been part of one of the groups swiftly passing through, comes back to apologize and cheer Osamura on, along with the two youngsters.
The viewer knows that the Tokyo to which most of the characters are returning is going to be firebombed. Osamura knows he is going off to military service and does not even think of wedding Emi, who clearly loves him (his part is even more underdeveloped than hers or the stock figures of the other guests).
The music (composed by Asai Takaaki, who would do “Morning for the Osone Family” before Kinoshita turned to his brother-in-law for music) is obnoxious (not the group singing in the outdoor bathing pool, though I don’t like it either). The cinematography (of Inokai Suketarô [who shot “Flunky, Work Hard” and other 1930s Naruse films]) is undistinguished. I much prefer the 1936 Shimizu Ibuse adaptation “Mr. Thank You,” which also has a group thrown together. Both are in the Criterion Eclipse (barebone) Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu set.
©2016, Stephen O. Murray