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TCM Imports - March 2019
Remind Me

Farewell to Dream

While not as well known internationally as his contemporaries, like Kurosawa, Mizoguchi and Ozu, Keisuke Kinoshita (1912-1998) was a prolific and highly successful director in Japan. In a career that spanned 45 years, Kinoshita made critically acclaimed films in just about every genre, earning him large audiences and high honors from the Japanese government.

His style and technique were also highly flexible: whether shooting on location or on confined sets, moving easily between long-shot, long-take realism and a high degree of stylization incorporating variations in editing, camera movement and placement and even theatrical forms, such as kabuki. While someone like Ozu had a characteristic style across his films, it's not as easy to spot a Kinoshita film strictly on the basis of style. What his films do have in common, for the most part, is a desire to "foreground the experiences of ordinary people as extraordinary accounts of Japanese life and society," bringing "a universal appeal and emotional subtlety to stories of social, political, and economic upheaval."

Yôichi, the lead character in Farewell to Dream, is one such ordinary person whose small, private story is also reflective of the society and time in which he lives. A 20-year-old who dreams of going to sea, Yôichi is instead forced to run his family's fish shop. The struggling business is located in an alley where wartime authorities forced the family to move, a decision (and government) cursed by Yôichi's late father in flashbacks.

With the patriarch gone, Yôichi has to become the head of the household and the business. He is more successful than his father at running the shop and holding the family together, but it comes at the price of his youthful dreams. Unlike his thoughtless and vain older sister, who enters into bad relationships without much consideration of the consequences, Yôichi is dutifully resigned to the diminishment of his desires.

The character's disappointment and loss compound throughout the film as he sees friends and potential romance fade from his life. Yet the tone is unlike the utter tragedy of, say, Mizoguchi's female protagonists. As Kinoshita once said, "No matter what kind of social structure, no matter what form of government, I think humans must not be left in a state of misery." His compassion for everyday people extends throughout this story and lends it a universality and empathy that marks the director's best work.

Kinoshita's everyman in this picture is an actor he worked with eight other times, Shinji Tanaka. In one of the director's most famous films, She Was Like a Wild Chrysanthemum (1955), Tanaka played another youth whose dreams--this time of marriage to a beloved cousin--are thwarted by family and societal restrictions.

There is a shot right near the beginning of Farewell to Dream that perfectly expresses the setting and the main character's dilemma. Yôichi is hemmed in by a narrow frame with the camera as he stands looking into the distance, speaking of the dream he can no longer attain. The beautiful black-and-white photography here and throughout the film is the work of Kinoshita's brother-in-law Hiroshi Kusuda, who worked with the director 45 times.

Kinoshita worked on Farewell to Dream with another frequent collaborator. His brother Chûji Kinoshita, provides the type of sentimental score he composed for about 45 of the director's films. The script is by the cinematographer's wife and the director's sister, Yoshiko Kusuda, one of Japan's handful of notable female screenwriters at the time. It is the only screenplay she wrote for Kinoshita.

Farewell to Dream was one of five of the director's lesser known films screened at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2013.

Director: Keisuke Kinoshita
Producer: Kôzô Kubo
Screenplay: Yoshiko Kusuda
Cinematography: Hiroshi Kusuda
Editing: Yoshi Sugihara
Art Direction: Kazue Hirataka
Music: Chûji Kinoshita
Cast: Shinji Tanaka (Yôichi), Yûko Mochizuki (Oshin), Takahiro Tamura (Sudô), Yoshiko Kuga (Toyoko), Isuzu Yamada (Kiyo)

By Rob Nixon

Hannah Lee, Film Society of Lincoln Center, November 7, 2012, on the occasion of a 15-film retrospective of Kinoshita's work