Thursday, November 20, 2014

Case Study No. 1688: Higashide Kyoko

KYOTO STORY: Trailer | Shochiku
KYOTO STORY: Trailer | Shochiku
Tags: Teleclan
Added: 4 years ago
From: TeleclanTV
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A love story jointly presented by
Shochiku, Ritsumeikan University
and the people of Kyoto Uzumasa's
Daiei Shopping Street
who share a passion for the
renaissance of film - Yoji Yamada

[scene opens with a young woman riding the train by herself, as "Kyoto Story, trailer" appears on screen]
[cut to a young man kissing the woman]
KOTA: [translated] Let's go somewhere ...
[cut to another man loudly reading poetry to the woman]
ENOKI: "Ah, though it may well be reckless of me, I shall make my way, against the flow! On horseback, those obstacles, shall I overcome! To be with my love, my dearest!"
[cut to the first man dancing on stage]
KOTA: [translated] This is dedicated to you.
KYOKO: [translated] No, I already have someone ...
[cut back to the woman alone on the train (with several more scenes from the film interspersed throughout), as "Will I be leaving this town?" appears on screen]

Directed by Yoji Yamada, Tsutomu Abe
Coming to Movix Kyoto in May



Higashide Kyoko is a university librarian. She also helps her parents with their drycleaning company. She is involved with a childhood friend from the neighborhood, Yanase Kota. He is the son of the local tofu maker and has begun a moderately successful career as a stand-up comedian. A visiting lecturer from Tokyo falls head-over-heels in love with Kyoko and asks her to go abroad with him to Beijing, where he has to spend the next few years for his research. But Kyoko cannot decide.



"Kyoto Story" is something of an experiment. Part of a program designed to foster young talent, veteran director Yamada Yoji ("The Hidden Blade") co-directs with his former protege Abe Tsutomu on a traditional love story with a triangle at the center. The only element that sets the film apart from a legion of films like it is its location: the Uzumasa Daiei street arcade, once home to the defunct Daiei Studio ("Rashomon" was among the films shot there).

Yamada's name above the title alone should spark festival interest and possibly an art house release in urban markets outside of Japan. The film is too low key, however, to travel much beyond that limited scope, though it's unlikely it was intended to. "Kyoto Story" is an intensely intimate love letter to the city.

Kyoko (Ebise Hana) is a librarian that finds herself torn between two men: the local tofu-maker's son who harbors aspirations of stand up comedy greatness and a visiting academic that frequents the university library she works in. While Kyoko struggles to make some life decisions, she reflects on her place, her heritage and her duty to community around Daiei that has all but defined her.



A Shochiku release of a Ritsumeikan Trust, Shochiku production. (International sales: Shochiku, Tokyo.) Produced by Toyo Omi Nagata, Suketsugu Noda, Ichiro Yamamoto. Executive producer, Yoji Yamada. Directed by Yoji Yamada, Tsutomu Abe. Screenplay, Yamada, Tomoaki Sasae.
With: Hana Ebise, Yoshihiro Usami, Sotaro Tanaka, Mai Nishida, Min Tanaka, Rei Dan.

Directing his 82nd feature in his 79th year, Yoji Yamada composes a sweet valentine to cinema in drama-docu hybrid "Kyoto Story." Filmed on the street where long-defunct major Japanese Daiei Studios once stood, Yamada's collaboration with co-director Tsutomu Abe and film students from Ritsumeikan U. bathes its simple love story in a warm glow of nostalgia for the days when moviemaking and life seemed much less complicated. Still playing in limited release since its May 22 domestic bow, pic boasts innocent charms that are ideal for fests and specialized broadcast, but offshore theatrical prospects appear slim.

IYamada and former assistant Abe set out their stall with archival footage while a female narrator (Rei Dan) describes the historic Uzumasa district in Kyoto as the "Hollywood of the Orient" back in the day. Many great studios once flourished including Daiei, producers of classics "Rashomon" and "Ugetsu." Intro concludes with a message that Daiei no longer exists, "but its name still remains, as does the pride of the local people."

Living in the heart of Daiei Shopping Street, Kyoko (Hana Ebise) helps out at her family's laundry business and works part-time in the Ritsumeikan U. library. (Yamada is a guest professor on campus.) Expecting to eventually marry Kota (pop star USA, real name Yoshihiro Usami), an aspiring comedian whose parents run the tofu shop next door, Kyoko is thrown for a loop when visiting scholar Enoki (Sotaro Tanaka) starts sending her love poems written in the ancient Chinese characters he's studying.

Kyoko's choice between the two men in her life and Kota's dilemma about whether to follow in his father's footsteps or take the risky road into showbiz are played out in a manner that would not be out of place in one of the 1950s dramas Yamada worked on during his apprenticeship at Shochiku. But this only enhances the appeal for the older demos the movie is aimed at, and works wonderfully well alongside documentary inserts featuring oldsters remembering when Daiei Shopping Street and Daiei Studios thrived. In several delightful instances, interviewees play themselves in scenes from the scripted drama.

The emotionally satisfying message to emerge from this mix of contempo drama and nostalgic docu is that while life seems faster and more complex nowadays, the basic human need for love and security never changes.

Yamada and Abe elicit fine performances from pros and amateurs alike. With his hangdog face and ever-present hat, USA's unfunny comic brings to mind Tora-san, the unsophisticated and unlucky-in-love character Yamada co-created and directed in 46 of the 48 feature outings which kept Shochiku's coffers full between 1969 and 1995.

Shots of old trams trundling down the tracks at daybreak and images of shops which look like they've been around forever are lovely side attractions of Masashi Chikamori's appropriately clean and unfussy lensing. Harumi Fuuki's score blends old and new melodies to perfection. Other tech work is on the mark.

Camera (color), Masashi Chikamori; editor, Kazuhide Ishijima; music, Harumi Fuuki; art director, Takashi Nishimura; costume designer, Kazuo Matsuda; sound (Dolby Digital), Kazumi Kishida; line producer, Tomohiro Abe; assistant director, Yasutaka Maehara. Reviewed at Hawaii Film Festival (Spotlight on Japan), Oct. 18, 2010. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- Forum; Hong Kong Film Festival -- Masterclass.) Running time: 93 MIN.

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