While his wife and children are away on holiday, a henpecked, daydreaming pharmacist begins a flirtatious relationship with the pretty girl in the boutique opposite. Almost a Japanese screwball comedy.
Near the turbulent end of the Edo era, a man returning to Japan after exile in America searches for his wife and becomes swept up in the current of revolution in this incisive period drama from the great Shohei Imamura.
I saw "My Second Brother" as part of an Imamura retrospective at the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle. The retrospective includes 18 films, more than half of them not available on video.
The story and the characters were too complicated for me to follow in detail on a single viewing, but, nevertheless, I considered it very rewarding.
This was the fourth of Imamura's films, two of the earlier ones having preceded it in the retrospective. I noted the Korean elements in the film, already well commented on in other posts. Imamura knew how to make the most of his settings, in this case a small Japanese mining town. Shots of mining operations, manmade mountains of slag, outdoor scenes, et al are masterful; it is evident that each of the three films I have seen so far show an increasing command of the cinematography.
The Korean element could be easily missed. An American element is even more easily missed. In one scene one hears the sound of a jet aircraft, which could only be an American plane flying over. (This is about the early 50's.) Another easily missed reference is of a woman whose business is suffering, who says it will pick up when the next war occurs.
Perhaps Imamura focused on the second brother, not the older, to indicate that the future of Japan depended on the next generation, one that had not experienced WW II.
This retrospective is also taking place now in Boulder, and will later move to Philadelphia, Silver Spring, Washington D.C., Portland OR, Boston, Nashville, and Chicago. For further info search Northwest Film Forum and click on "cinemas."
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