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Anzukko (Little Peach)

Posted by martinteller on February 10, 2013

Kyoko Hirayama (Kyoko Kagawa) is a young woman who lives with her brother Heinosuke (Hiroshi Tachikawa), her mother Reiko (Shizue Natsukawa) and her father Heishiro (Sô Yamamura), a well-known novelist.  Her parents are trying to find a suitable husband for her, but none of the suitors so far have sparked an interest.  Ryokichi (Isao Kimura), a friend since childhood, puts forth his proposal.  Kyoko hadn’t considered it before, but she’s agreeable and accepts.  But tough times are ahead.  Ryokichi has some talent with electronics, but is unable to hold down a job for long.  Part of this is because he’s more interested in writing… and part is his habitual drinking.

As in Meshi (Repast), Naruse takes a grim view of marriage, especially when financial concerns get in the way.  It’s not entirely bleak — Reiko and Heishiro seem to have a fairly harmonious relationship, despite some joking about it — but the situation between Kyoko and Ryokichi grows darker and darker.  The film starts very sunny and romantic, with lightly comic bits about Kyoko taking her suitors on the same bike ride to the edge of the village every time.  And gradually the life drains out of her in the face of Ryokichi’s increasingly vicious verbal abuse.  Her parents have sage advice but wisely try to stay out of it, offering support any way they can without intervening or passing judgment.

Performances all around are spectacular.  Kimura is far from the bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked naif of Seven Samurai (two of the other samurai also appear in minor roles).  His bitterness, arrogance and envy of Heishiro’s talent keeps building.  He has an incredible scene drunkenly laying waste to his father-in-law’s beloved garden.  Yamamura is an absolute joy to watch, his wisdom and concern plain on his face… he wants the best for his daughter, but knows she must live her own life and make her own mistakes.  But the real star is Kagawa, who manages a full range but always with precision and restraint.  The use of music is quite marvelous as well.  Kyoko plays piano, and early on it’s a bright presence on the soundtrack (and is cleverly used to bridge scenes)… as time wears on, it seems to take on more somber tones.

This is a fantastic film.  The marriage at the heart of it may be dour, but there is also warmth in the support system that Kyoko’s family provides.  This currently stands as my favorite by Naruse, but there are many more to see… and many I’d like to revisit.  Rating: Very Good (87)


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