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Countercurrents: The Films of Yasuzo Masumura

Saturday, September 13, 1997
The Build-Up
Yasuzo Masumura Japan, 1958

(Kyojin to gangu/Giants and Toys). An iconoclastic outburst aimed at the advertising biz and, by extension, the society that buys into it. Masumura's fast-paced editing targets the absurdity of his characters' lives: like rats in a maze, they scurry to secure their social status before their time is up. The plot has three large caramel companies in hot competition; around every corner is an industrial spy. A lower-class girl (Hitomi Nozoe) with stunningly bad teeth is made the mascot for one of the companies and, through the skills of a sleazy photographer, becomes an overnight sensation. Her animal instincts prevail over product loyalty, while our advertising-executive hero (Hiroshi Kawaguchi), attempting to salvage a bit of his humanity, destroys himself for the good of the company. In Warm Current Masumura indulged in a hilarious digression to take a swipe at Japanese television striving toward a Western model. Here, the idiocy of television production is a running gag in a portrait of marketing run amok. Masumura shows himself to be a Japanese Frank Tashlin.

• Written by Yoshio Shirasaka, based on a story by Ken Kaiko. Photographed by Hiroshi Murai. With Hiroshi Kawaguchi, Hitomi Nozoe, Hideo Takamatsu, Kinzo Shin. (96 mins [corr: 92 mins], In Japanese with English subtitles, Color, 'Scope, 35mm, PFA Collection, permission Daiei)