Saturday, August 13, 2011

Flunky, Work Hard

The Earliest Surviving Naruse Film

Koshiben ganbare [Flunky, Work Hard] by Mikio Naruse, 1931:

• Ragged cutting, which attains a lyricism in the shots of a toy plane gliding through the air.

• The same blighted suburban landscapes that appear in other Shochiku output of the period, specifically Ozu's I Was Born, But... (one year after) and Passing Fancy (two years after).

• Kaleidoscopic effects, and in the most beautiful image, the toy planes have been transformed into 'ghost planes' by virtue of crude superimposition across the would-be deathbed. (In a roundtable at the Notebook site here, Dan Sallitt writes: "The really interesting thing about the 'montage of inner revelation' is that the last montage interlude occurs as the child is coming around. It seems to suggest that the protagonist's anguish has staying power even in the face of a relatively happy ending.")

• The 'sick child' motif, also found in Ozu's 1931 Tokyo Chorus and Passing Fancy, among other films.

• "Flunky, Work Hard": One of the most beautiful titles in cinema — an adept and inspired translation of "Koshiben ganbare".


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