Despite his domestic repute as a maestro, Kinoshita Keisuke was a lesser-appreciated director outside Japan than his contemporaries like Kurosawa, Ozu, or Naruse. Often criticized as a sentimental populist, he was nonetheless a cinematic genius: innovating genres, handling a variety of political and social issues, still retaining entertainment qualities. The sequel to Carmen Comes Home, Carmen’s Pure Love is a relentless satirical comedy on postwar politics and hypocrisy (rearmament, uprising nationalism, westernization). This was only possible with the amazing versatility and vivacity of Takamine Hideko, another one of the greatest actress of all time, who created-with great empathy and intelligence-the title character as a dazzling working-class heroine.
Utterly different from the typical Naruse feminine heroine and rooted in the actress’ performance, here Takamine plays a spirited strip tease dancer, who falls in love with an affected avant-garde artist who in turn tries to exploit her as a nude model. Everything is excessive-so much happens in a slapstick manner, so many shots with oblique angles. Recent criticism underlines Kinoshita’s gay sensitivities. Takamine’s brilliant rendition of a campy Carmen reveals “womanliness as masquerade.” Her adorable naivete, however, works as an ironic critique on the traditional, bourgeois notion of femininity.
It’s a deliciously weird and fun film, one that you’ll either love or hate. Yet, you can’t help loving Carmen and her comrade, Akemi. (Saito Ayako)
Kinoshita KeisukeKinoshita Keisuke
Born in 1912. Kinoshita Keisuke is considered one of the cinematic masters of the Japanese postwar generation. Though his films found a wide audience in Japan, but they have rarely been seen abroad. Accomplished in a wide range of genres, he made satiric comedies, stirring social dramas and the visually compelling, Kabuki version of The Ballad of Narayama(1958). Though his plots tend toward the traditional and sentimental, he continuously experimented with his film’s visual style. Carmen Comes Home(1951) was Japan’s first film to be released in color. In 1991, he received an award from the Japanese government lauding his contribution to national culture. His selected filmography includes A Japanese Tragedy(1953), Twenty-Four Eyes and She Was Like a Wild hrysanthemum(1955).