Kinoshita’s last movie, the 1988 “Father” (for once, the English title is a translation of the Japanese, “Chichi”) moves about, albeit not by train. The family on which the movie centers is based in Kagoshima (in southern Kyushu). The titular father (the narrator’s), played by Bandô Eiji, is sentimental about the city’s theme songs (the featuring of one is a recurrent feature of Kinoshta’s oeuvre, multiplied in his last outing), but kareems around (Brazil, Hawai’i, Tokyo).
The stubborn grandmother holds on to the property she owns there, and eventually she permits her former (as in divorced) daughter-in-law (Sugai Kin) to run a restaurant there, and the Sakurajima volcano continues to spew out ashes.
IMDB does not reveal either who played the resilient grandmother or the Brazilian black friend Bandô brings back to Japan with him, certain that a Japanese-speaking black man will be a sensation in Japan, even if he is not an especially gifted crooner.
All three of Kinoshita’s outright comedies (the 1949 “A Broken Drum,” the 1957 “Danger Stalks Near,” and the 1960 “Spring Dreams,” and the blacker are the other two) have fathers who are absurd and ineffectually frustrated by others. In the earlier ones, the fathers are successful businessmen. In the final one, the father is a deadbeat, always touting once-in-a-lifetime business opportunities that lead to failure. His son (the strapping Nonomura Makoto), who has been raised by his grandmother and his mother and is about Daijiro (who starts art university, is bemused rather than resenting the successful fathers as in “A Boken Drum” and “Spring Dreams”).
(I don’t think that Kinoshita, who would live another decade, realized this would be his last film, and consider it less a final testament than his previous film, “Big joys, small sorrows.” Or Kurosawa’s finale, “Madadayo,” which has even more a capella singing in it.) It is slight, but not an embarrassment, like, say, the last movie John Ford directed, “Seven Women”.)
©2016, Stephen O. Murray