26 février 2007

The Lady and the Beard (1931/Ozu)

Shukujo to hige / The Lady and the Beard (1931/Ozu Yasujiro/Japan) ++

19th silent film made at the Shochiku Kamata studio, shot in 8 days. 7th surviving film.
Comedy of manners confronting a poor misogynist bachelor, Kiichi, with 3 cute women : the street thug, the innocent low-class clerk and an aristocrat.

Kiichi is a Kendo champion, brave and honest, with a childish and asocial behavior, lives alone in a dirty appartment. His beard and repaired clothes ridiculize him in society. Ozu portrays here a stereotypical world opposing the ancient regime incarnated by the martial art tradition, kimono and facial hair, to the modern Japan of the westernized fashion, suits, office work. We can sense the inspiration of Chaplin humor in this negligent tramp causing etiquette troubles in public because he doesn't fit in.

The film opens at a Kendo tournament showing Kiichi hidden under his Kendo helmet, delaying the revelation of the face of the popular actor, Okada Tokihiko, and his notorious beard. During his domination of all opponents, only body language conveys the visual gags. His purely physical performance already identifies a peculiar personality, like Mifune Toshiro with his famous shoulder shake. It's an interesting establishing scene for a silent movie, where the audience cannot identify to the voice nor the face of the lead actor. And we have to contemplate the spectacle of this choreography of lookalike "puppets" battling together until we understand who is who.
In the street his confident saber skills help him to rescue a lone woman racketed by a street gang, conducted by a female thug. Invited at the fancy birthday party of an aristocrat heiress he scares away all the girls but leaves a strong impression with his traditional dance. Once convinced to shave his antic beard to become a modern gentleman, women will fall for him and he'll be embarassed by marriage proposals. The coincidence of three women from different social classes running after him creates a series of humorous misunderstandings. From unpleasant and clumsy he tries hard to seduce his chosen sweetheart.
Pure entertainment routine (one of the last ones) from Ozu's early period. The visual running gags are quite funny and staged with originality. Very amusing. There is an exterior travelling with the camera looking into a spherical chrome headlight of a driving car, which reflects the city streets, deformed. A shot Ozu used in other early films as well.
(s) 0 (w) + (m) ++ (i) ++ (c) +

1 commentaire:

HarryTuttle a dit…

Read also the review at ozuyasujiro.com