At some point when we were young, we gazed starry-eyed at the wide screen and marveled at the spectacle before us, thinking that this animation or that family-movie is the best movie there could be. But when we reached college, too young still but even more impressionable, we let, without question, other people to discipline our taste. We easily believed that art should be sublime, that it should prompt us to ask relevant questions, that it should serve a purpose in revolutionizing the way we think, that it must be beautiful. All these concepts being too abstract to allow themselves to be imagined, we accepted them as truth, again without question.
In the process, we gave up most if not all of our childhood favorite. The Uncanny X-men are too frivolous and definitely unbelievable – not art. Home Alone 2 Lost in New York is too popish, i.e. popular (art is snobbish) – not art. Mojacko and Pokemon both about aliens and alien-looking stuffed toys are too numerous and repetitious (art thrives in singularity, relate this with being snobbish) – not art.
And so we matured ‘enjoying’ art but not truly enjoying, in the real sense of the word, what we are watching and reading despite them being considered artistic or a text a canon. And there goes our childhood memories of the movies (not films) we enjoyed watching and the books we relished reading that stir us up to ask the inevitable question: Why does art bore me?
The film Always – Sunset on Third Street (San-chome no yuhi) by the director Yamazaki Takashi tackles the lives of working class Japanese during the “post-war” period when Japan was just starting to rebuild itself from the ravages of World War II. Tokyo tower is being built as a symbol of recovered Japan, not far from it is the area of the working class called shitamachi, the booming capital where people are trying their best to improve their lives.
Hoshino Mutsuko, just graduated from junior high school, arrives in Tokyo by train to take a job in a major automotive company but finds that she is employed by a small auto repair shop owned by Norifumi Suzuki. The Suzuki shop lies almost in the shadow of the Tokyo Tower as it rises steadily above the skyline during construction in 1958.
Others in the neighborhood are also striving to better themselves as Japan continues to recover from war. Hiromi, has just abandoned her shady life as a dancer to start a sake bar. Abandoned by his single mother, young Junnosuke is first handed off to Hiromi but she passes him off to Ryunosuke Chagawa, a struggling writer who runs a candy shop and only manages to sell adventure stories for boys as his serious novels continue to be rejected.
Junnosuke is an avid reader of Chagawa’s stories and begins to idolize him upon learning about his authorship. Junnosuke also writes stories, and makes friends with Ippei and others when they discover his tales that show Japan in the hi-tech future of the 21st century.
The movie, in its almost child-like approach to story-telling recounts the steady development of Japan in the 1950s and how it becomes an economic power that it is now through the lives of simple Japanese whose dreams for the future is as lofty as the Tokyo Tower. I laughed at the boys’ adventure similar to the scenes between Nobita and his robot cat, Doraemon. It was amusing to see people in the neighborhood filled with the emotional impact of watching for the first time a wrestling fight on the first ever black-and-white television in the area. The scene where the child and his father Suzuki placed their heads inside their newly-bought refrigerator brought back memories from my childhood.
The film has a feel of a propaganda, I must admit where everyone seems to be happy or on his way to achieving that happiness. Even the cinematography speaks of this. This film reminds me of the feel good movies I enjoyed watching when I was young but which I eventually learned to detest because of their lack of artistic merit.
To bluntly put it, this Japanese movie is Diney-esque – not art.
But after watching Always, I shamelessly admit that I enjoyed (without the quotation marks) watching the movie.
Always – Sunset on Third Street (San-chome no yuhi) is one of the featured films in the Eiga Sai 2009 (which simply translates to the word ‘festival’) at the Shangri-la Plaza mall in Mandaluyong that runs from 2nd of July until the 12th. This is just one of the activities organized by the Embassy of Japan, UP Film Institute and Shangri-la Plaza in celebration of the Philippine-Japan Friendship Month.