Sing, Young People! (1963)
September 11, 2015 2:50 PM - Subscribe

A college student receives a surprising offer to be a movie star.

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Part of the Criterion On Hulu film club. This film was streaming for free on Hulu this week as part of Criterion's weekly free film festival. You can vote on next week's film here: Criterion Free Movie Of The Week
posted by ob1quixote (5 comments total)
"Being human is being lonely"!!
posted by latkes at 9:50 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Oops, they're not students. They're real thugs. Hard to tell the difference these days."
posted by ob1quixote at 12:10 AM on September 12, 2015

What a treat to screen what I'm pretty sure was Kinoshita's second color feature. (The first being Carmen Comes Home shot on Fujicolor in 1951.) The color and print are really nice, and Kinoshita takes full advantage of color film throughout the picture.

I thought the movie was pretty funny. I absolutely loved the scene with Mori's and Hirao's mothers. Mori's mother, coming in from Sado Island remarking on how Tokyo is terrible with too many cars and people swarming everywhere was delightful. Then Hirao's mother talking about how a college education wasn't worth much anymore — in 1963! — and the construction boom means she can't find enough gravel to sell. Then, to top it all off, Chieko Higashiyama (from Tokyo Story) playing Okada's judgmental and old-fashioned grandmother was hilarious. Kinoshita's little meta-joke with Mori signing a contract with Shochiku was just the icing on the cake.

It's also extremely interesting from the perspective of its setting in the post-war period. In the movie, at the end of 1962 Miyamoto feels like Japan's future is "pitch black." By the end of 1964, Japan will have introduced the Bullet Train and hosted the Olympics, just 19 years after the end of the war. The question in my mind is was Kinoshita lamenting the dissolution of the old ways or celebrating it?
posted by ob1quixote at 2:21 AM on September 12, 2015

Chieko Higashiyama (from Tokyo Story) playing Okada's judgmental and old-fashioned grandmother was hilarious

Yeah, it was a treat to see her again. A very distinctive face!

I often struggle with subtitled movies to know whether someone's acting is good or not. Firstly, I'm staring at the words at the bottom instead of their bodies and faces, second, I don't understand what the tone and intonation of their voices is communicating. With this movie, I struggled overall with understanding the tone: is this movie a little goofy? With it's bookended voiceover about "young people today", is it a faux documentary feel? Even if it presents the issues of young people more explicitly than an American film of 1963 would have (pregnancy! toplessness!), it is clearly the light version of what a college kid would have struggled with.

Tonally, it did seem very optimistic! The negativity mentioned above is all undone at the end when everyone is happy and successful in either love or career. I don't know much about post-war Japan, and only from a couple literary sources that are much darker than this.

So who was this movie for? Is it the Gidget of Japan? It seems more serious than that, somewhat critical, clearly making some kind of statement about what Japan is. I wish I could find an essay or something to contextualize it. Reading the wikipedia on Kinoshita was helpful (and hilarious that he put in that scene with the kids saying that he's the best director!). I wasn't surprised to learn that he was gay: there's a real affection in how he looks at the young men in the film, and I read the kid with the glasses as gay from the first scene - pregnancy scare or no. I may add Farewell To Spring to our queue. Didn't realize it was a coded gay classic.

Thanks for adding this! Something I'd never heard of that I enjoyed.
posted by latkes at 9:06 AM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think one thing to think about, which I should have mentioned honestly, is that a college freshman in 1962 was born after the end of the war. They wouldn't remember the desperate days in the '40s. They wouldn't remember Tokyo as the blasted hell-hole you can see in One Wonderful Sunday (1947 — Kurosawa), Drunken Angel (1948 — Kurosawa), A Hen in the Wind (1948 — Ozu), or in flashback in Tragedy of Japan (1953 — Kinoshita).

I'm really happy we've had our first Kinoshita picture. Kurosawa and Ozu get the glory, but to me Kinoshita is the most interesting.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:03 PM on September 12, 2015

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