Ozu’s stylized silent film “Walk Cheerfully” (1930) is a redemption melodrama centered on small-time hoodlum/ pickpocket Kenji the Knife (Takada Minoru, who does not flash a knife, though he has a gun and is grazed by a derringer shot from his former confederate Gunpei (Mori Teruo) when he refuses to get involved in the heist the guy and Kenji’s former moll, Chieko (Date Satoko), are planning). The camera was sometimes at later Ozu height (one meter) but sometimes higher. There are many scenes in which people or things move through the frame, but there is also some camera movement, even quite gratuitous camera movement. And some location shooting away from any studio.)
The most bizarre aspect of the gangster movie is little synchronized steps by gangsters (three policemen also walk in step with only their feet and lower legs shown).
Takada was strikingly handsome, sort of a mixture of Alain Delon’s boxer Rocco and Buster Keaton with a very aquiline nose. Yasue, the woman for whom Kenji goes straight (taking a job washing windows in a high-rise) is the hard-working, strait-laced Yasue, played by Kawasaki Hiroko (Ornamental Hairpin). His pal, Senko (Yoshitani Hisao) who becomes a chauffeur working for the same company/building is more entertaining.
The movie blurs genres. If I had to pick one, I’d say it is a romantic comedy, but Criterion has packaged it with “That Night’s Wife” (also dating from 1930—before “The Pubic Enemy” and “Little Caesar”, but after Sternberg’s “Underworld” ) and the 1933 “Dragnet Girl” as “Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas” in its “Eclipse” (barebones) series.
©2016, Stephen O. Murray