Danger Stalks Near
Posted by martinteller on September 29, 2014
Yuriko Sato (Hideko Takamine) is having a typically hectic day. Her son Kazuo (Kotohisa Saotome) is home from school with a fever. Her mother-in-law Tetsu (Akiko Tamura) is nagging as usual, never letting Yuriko forget that it’s her house they’re living in. Her husband Kaneshige (Keiji Sada), a shoe salesman, returns home with news that they won a camera worth 50,000 yen… news they try to hide from his mother. Miyoko (Hiroko Ito), the brash young woman they rent a room to, has burned the tatami mat and has to be evicted. Yuriko’s sister Sakura (Toshiko Kobayashi) shows up, wanting to borrow money. Yuriko’s other sister Ayame (Masako Arisawa) brings over a new lodger, her boyfriend Suzuki (Yoshihide Sato)… but Miyoko returns with her boyfriend (Kôji Satomi), demanding the final day of rent she paid for. Then there’s the mailman delivering bills, the tatami repairman, and a neighbor coming by at the request of Kaneshige’s boss, urging him to get back to work. Most disruptive of all is the sudden appearance of Kaneshige’s childhood friend Bunichi (Kôji Nanbara), flush with money but acting suspicious. And the whole time, their house is being cased by three young thugs (Akira Oze, Shoji Sayama, Shinji Tanaka), hoping to rob the place but frustrated by the constant flow of traffic coming and going.
Keisuke Kinoshita redeems himself after my having seen the disappointing Carmen Comes Home the other day. Although in some ways a “slight” movie, it’s pretty funny and always in motion. And with a cynical edge. The Sato household is a seething den of domestic strife, overrun with petty squabbles, self-serving deceptions, delusions of martyrdom, gossip, scheming, greed, insincere flattery, and passive aggression. No one does anything without an expectation of something in return… their currency is resentful favors. No one comes out of it looking very sympathetic, but as light comedy it hits the mark.
The whole cast is quite enjoyable, including a decidedly less-than-glamorous role for the great Hideko Takamine. Tamura is also really funny as the mother-in-law from hell, always griping and placing the blame on anyone but herself. She’s loaded with minor hypocrisies, like suggesting a home remedy for her grandson rather than calling an expensive doctor, but balking when the same option is offered for her stomachache. There’s also a moment (“What’s the name of this movie? Something… samurai? What a boring title.”) that seems like it might be a playful jab at Kurosawa. This was 12 years before Kurosawa and Kinoshita (along with Kon Ichikawa and Masaki Kobayashi) would form a production company together, and maybe they had a friendly rivalry.
The framing story of the three would-be burglars is handled a bit awkwardly, but it makes the point that the threat posed by these numbskulls is nothing compared to the chaos brewing inside the average home. My first exposure to Kinoshita was the sentimental Twenty-Four Eyes, but digging deeper into his work I’ve found a vein of bitterness, from the hopelessness of The Eternal Rainbow to the suffering of A Japanese Tragedy to the (regrettably conservative) condemnation of contemporary values in Carmen Comes Home. Here, although he does it with lively comedy, he explores the fractured family, boiling with buried resentments and selfishness. It’s not a feelgood film, but it is an amusing one with a lot of entertaining turns. Rating: Very Good (82)