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Here’s to the Young Lady

Posted by martinteller on October 10, 2014

Keizo Ishizu (Shûji Sano) is a 34-year-old bachelor, who lives in an apartment with his brother Goro (Keiji Sada).  The two run an auto shop together.  One day, Ishizu’s friend Mr. Sato (Takeshi Sakamoto) drops by the shop, wanting to introduce Ishizu to Yasuko Ikeda (Setsuko Hara), the daughter of his former mentor.  Ishizu is intimidated by the wealthy girl’s position, but reluctantly agrees.  Upon meeting her, he is instantly smitten, and overjoyed to hear that she is willing to let him court her.  But there’s a twist to this scenario: the Ikeda family has fallen on hard times, and Yasuko’s father is in prison, having taken the fall for a shady business deal.  Now the would-be couple tries to navigate these awkward waters, with Ishizu trying to fit into genteel society and Yasuko swallowing her embarrassment over her family situation.

This is a slight film from Kinoshita, one that doesn’t deal as sharply with social or moral issues as others I’ve seen by the director, but a largely enjoyable one.  While not exactly funny enough to be classified as a romcom, there are plenty of moments of subdued humor that work well (even the not-so-subdued visual gag of Ishizu giving himself a hotfoot).  There are wonderfully airy scenes like Ishizu’s joyous motorcycle ride after receiving good news.  Or the courtship, where Ishizu is moved by ballet and Yasuko is thrilled by a boxing match.  The film makes excellent use of small gestures and telling facial expressions, communicating the feelings that politeness demands not be expressed.  But Ishizu, while often nervous and timid, also has a temper, especially when trying to protect Goro from what he considers to be a bad romance.  This subplot provides a nice counterpoint to the main action, as Ishizu longs only to be loved but tries to deny his brother that privilege for practical reasons.

Some interesting touches, not all for the best.  A pretty waltz-tempo love song is used repeatedly throughout the film, first sung by Goro, later in a touching scene at the brothers’ favorite tavern, and also popping up on the soundtrack.  Camera movement is often graceful and expressive, moving through space in all directions to follow characters rather than cut away.  On the downside, however, Kinoshita employs an absurd array of geometric wipes, trying out just about every one in the book.  I don’t know if he had a wipe-happy editor or if it’s meant to give the movie more of a lighthearted feel, but it’s cheesy and distracting.

Still, it’s a sweet picture and the cast is excellent.  Setsuko Hara is simply always a wonder, but familiar faces Sano, Sada, and Chieko Higashiyama (as Yasuko’s mother) also acquit themselves admirably.  It’s not a sweep-you-off-your-feet romance, but there are some pleasant facets to it and it goes down easy.  Rating: Good (78)


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