I have but one remark to make about Clyde Bruckman’s hilarious Man on the Flying Trapeze, the story for which was conjured by its star, W.C. Fields (under the pseudonym Charles Bogle), along with Sam Hardy. It is this: Martin Scorsese’s tepid-by-comparison After Hours (1985)—the film that’s always thrown up in somebody’s face when he or she notes that Martin Scorsese is a one-note director—is more or less the same idea as Fields’s and Bruckman’s, except that the earlier film could be called During Hours. As Bill Demarest might have it: “Positively the same movie!”
Archive for March 1st, 2008
The following is one of the entries from my 100 Greatest Asian Films list, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis
Seventeenth-century Kyoto; Japan’s feudal moral code demands that two adulterous lovers, bound back-to-back, be driven by horseback through the clamorous street to the place of their double crucifixion. Ishun, a successful scroll-maker, is among the curious; but he is a philandering hypocrite. Osan, his decades-younger wife by financial arrangement, is wrongly suspected of marital infidelity with Mohei, Ishun’s prize worker. The pair flee, intent on committing double suicide; but when Mohei confesses his love, Osan is given cause to live. They are caught, however, betrayed by Osan’s “disgraced” family. Bound back-to-back, Osan and Mohei are driven through the street. This time, the camera is closer up; the abstract idea of the punitive code has been transformed into human reality. There’s no need this time to show the crucifixions. We ourselves supply that image from what we saw earlier.
Based on a puppet play by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, Kenji Mizoguchi’s intense, delicate love story and condemnation of social bigotry and the role money plays in determining people’s fates is an exquisitely wrought film ranging from Kyoto’s industrious bustle to the serenity of Lake Biwa, where, contemplating their doom, the fugitives already branded as lovers discover their love. There is no peace either behind or ahead of them; but in that moment, seemingly still while slowly moving across the misty lake, there is the otherworldly contentment of their feelings for one another. What we “see” is the interiority of their love.
On land, in rural hiding, Mohei recalls himself as a boy dreaming of his own future success in the city of Kyoto. Thus in the present he goes back to a past from which he looked ahead. The complexity of the psychological coordinates of time suggests the exhaustion of time—and the fates of the crucified lovers.