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Ai to Kibo no Machi

A Town of Love and Hope
Eine Stadt der Liebe und Hoffnung / A Street of Love and Hope

Japan 1959
produced by
Tomio Ikeda for Shochiku
directed by Nagisa Oshima
starring Hiroshi Fujikawa, Yuki Tominaga, Yuko Mochizuki, Michio Ito, Fumio Watanabe, Kakuko Chino, Fujio Suga, Noboru Sakashita, Toyoko Kiryu, Taiko Goto, Yoshino Tani, Hisashi Taki, Nobuo Takagi, Keiji Ueda, Yoyi Toki
written by Nagisa Oshima, music by Riichiro Manabe

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Middle school boy Masao (Hiroshi Fujikawa) is poor, there are no two ways about it, and since his father is dead, his mother (Yuko Mochizuki) is sick, and his little sister (Michio Ito) is slightly retarded, he has to work as a shoeshine boy. And to make a little money on the side, he sells his sister's pigeons to people he meets in the streets - which is quite a profitable business since pigeons have a homing instinct, so once they have managed to escape their owners, they always return to Masao. One day, he sells the pigeon to rich daughter Kyoko (Yuki Tominaga), who takes an instant interest in him, and she wants to help him out of poverty, also because her father (Fujio Suga) is a rich company owner. So she returns one of his pigeons to Masao, not knowing that the other one who has escaped her has already returned but died from exhaustion once back.

Mother wants Masao to go to high school because she wants him to have a better education than anyone in her family ever had to finally go places, but Masao knows it's his job to look after his family and thus he's looking for work. Kyoko wants to make her father and her brother Yuji (Fumio Watanabe) - in  charge of personnel of daddy's company - to employ Masao, which is very much in line with the wishes of his teacher Miss Akiyama (Kakuko Chino), who for months has been trying to persuade local companies to employ local poor folks. She soon becomes romantically involved with Yuji.

Everything seems to be going fine for Masao for a while, and it almost looks as if he's got the job ... but then Yuji finds out about his pigeon scam, and he refuses to employ Masao. Because of that, Miss Akiyama breaks up with Yuji. Masao confesses the scam to Kyoko, and she buys his last pigeon one more time ... to have it shot by her brother.

 

I know I might be lynched by world cinema and arthouse fans for saying this - but A Town of Love and Hope, Nagisa Oshima's first movie, simply isn't all that great: Sure, it's got its fair share of impressive images, obviously got more than a few useful hints from Italian neorealismo, its heart is in the right place and its depiction of poverty (especially when contrasted with the world of the rich) is suitably touching. But at the same time it tries to bring its (admittedly exemplary) social message home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and at the same time, the film fails to bring up a proper conflict to evolve around other than the rather generalized hardships of the poor.

Now I'm not saying here that the film isn't without its merits, because there are quite a few, but its more the showcase of a director who shows promise than a sign of early greatness ...

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Tales to Chill
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD