Humanity and Paper Balloons

1937

Drama

73
IMDb Rating 7.8 10 1,516

Synopsis


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November 11, 2020

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720p.WEB 1080p.WEB
791.65 MB
1280*720
Japanese 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
86 min
P/S N/A / N/A
1.44 GB
1920×1080
Japanese 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
86 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by WaveTossed 10 / 10 / 10

Haunting

I just got a DVD copy of this film and watched it. It haunted my dreams. It's a very low-key rendering. The director structured the film very carefully. But not in an obvious "art house" way, he just let events happen as they did. It's an "ensemble" film, starring a host of characters who live in an urban slum in Edo (which is now Tokyo). It begins with the investigation of a suicide, an impoverished, elderly ex-samurai who had hanged himself because -- having pawned his real sword blades and replaced them with bamboo; this was done for him not to starve to death -- he had been unable to perform the samurai ritual of seppuku (ritual suicide, done with a sword piercing the stomach). The slum residents react by having a "wake" for the dead man, which is actually an excuse for them to drink up and make as merry as they can. There are two main characters, Shinza a barber and Matajuro, a ronin who once was a samurai serving a clan but lost his position with this clan. At the beginning, while Shinza and the others are celebrating, Matajuro looks on, an obvious outsider among the commoners. The others invite him to join, but he tells them that he "doesn't drink." Shinza is a barber who really strives to be something else, though he's not really sure what he wants to do; he wants to break out of the rather petty niche that he's found himself in. He finds himself in trouble with the local gangsters for operating a gambling party without their permission. He is defiant toward the gang boss and wishes to get back at him. Matajuro lives with his wife right next door to the barber. His wife Otaki supports the couple by crafting paper balloons to sell; we see her sitting in the house doing her artistry. It seems that Matajuro lost his position with his clan because of his drinking sprees. Now he has given up drinking in order to "regain his health" and hopefully regain his position. He clings to a letter that his late father had written that he is sure will get him his position back. He spends most of his days struggling with the temptation to drink and pursuing the clan official who would be responsible for reinstating him to his position; he humbly begs him just for a word and to read his father's letter. This is a Japanese period film that features a samurai as one of the main characters. But there is no sword fighting in the film; the most action we get to see is a bunch of gangsters beating up on a helpless Matajuro; they had been sent by the clan official whom Matajuro had been trying to meet. Some call this film "pessimistic." I'm not so sure that it's pessimistic as it is simply sad and tragic. One thing for sure. It will haunt the viewer for quite a while and it will demand to be seen over and over.

Reviewed by howard.schumann 9 / 10 / 10

An all-time film classic

Filmed in conjunction with the radical Zenshin-za theatre group, Humanity and Paper Balloons, Sadao Yamanaka's tragi-comic tribute to the poor and working classes in the 18th century during the Edo period is a treasure of world cinema. A contemporary of Ozu, Naruse, and Mizoguchi, Yamanaka made 22 films before his death in Manchuria in 1938 at the age of 29 but sadly only three have survived. Humanity and Paper Balloons is a jidaigeki or historical period film whose power lies not only in the social realist message that depicts the hardships endured by the poor but in its delineation of character, its humor, and the beautiful cinematography that captures the claustrophobic nature of the village in which the story takes place. Based on a Kabuki play known as Shinza the Barber, the film opens with an unseen suicide by a disgraced samurai who hangs himself out of desperation. While the death is being investigated, local tenants hold a wake (drinking the landlord's sake) that turns into a evening of merriment, ostensibly to cleanse the evil that lingers in the village. As the party proceeds, Yazuka boss Yataguro and his gang look for Shinza (Kanemon Nakamura), a hairdresser, to exact revenge for the gambling parties he has sponsored in their territory. Shrugging off the danger he faces, Shinza, an appealing but naive character, continues to hold gambling parties and pushes the envelope even further by kidnapping the daughter of the wealthy merchant Shirokoya to cause the local bosses to lose face. Meanwhile a poor Ronin named Matajuro Unno (Chojuro Kawarasaki) desperately wants a meeting with Mori, a samurai official, who knew his father and who he feels owes him a debt of gratitude but he is continuously rebuffed. As Unno's attempts to meet and talk with Mori fail, his wife (Shizue Yamagishi) ekes out a living by making paper balloons and all of the strands of the film come together at the end with tragic consequences. Although the story is bleak, the film is lightened considerably by its humor and intelligent interplay of character. Like Hirokazu Koreeda in his 2004 film Hana Yori mo Naho, Yamanaka masterfully challenges the legend of the samurai as heroes and shows how the Bushido code of honor was ultimately empty of compassion and common sense. Humanity and Paper Balloons, true to its title, is a film of deep and abiding humanity that has finally been restored by Eureka Entertainment's Masters of Cinema Series to its proper place among the all time film classics.

Reviewed by GyatsoLa 9 / 10 / 10

rain falling

I got this movie out of curiosity to see why some writers call Yamanaka the equal of Ozu and Kurosawa, despite his death at just 29. A pre war movie about 18th Century slum dwellers doesn't sound so interesting, but like the other reviewers here I found it a fascinating and haunting experience. I think this movie will live with me for many years. It features a range of wonderful characters, most notably a sad, alcoholic samurai and his patient wife (the maker of the 'paper balloons' of the title), the sharp go-getter Shinza, the rabble of slum dwellers who surround them and the gangsters and others who prey on them - but who are often prey in return. The structure of the story is marvelous - its so very short, yet, there are multiple threads, all brought together beautifully - the young couple seeking to elope, the desperation of the fallen Samurai trying to regain his position, the sharp practices of Shinza, even the little jokes of a blind (or is he?) handyman. It all comes together to a haunting ending, that seems remarkably modern. It is also a wonderfully humane story, that treats the poverty stricken characters with respect and compassion. This is a truly great film, one that can stand up with the acclaimed masterpieces of the 1950's. Such a terrible shame that Yamanaka died so young and that so few of his other movies survived. I hope what others are around will be brought out soon on DVD. Masters of Cinema should be congratulated for releasing this lovely version.

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