Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sunset on Third Street: Sanchoume no Yuuhi ALWAYS (Japanese movie, 2005)

This is one of the most stunningly moving Japanese movies I have ever seen. Set in post world war II Tokyo, Japan, in the 1950's when the Tokyo tower was being built giving dreams to people, the success lies in simplicity and it’s all pervading ‘Japaneseness’. All the actors and actresses have done an excellent job. Definitely a movie you would like to see with your family around you including your little kids cozying up.

Credit goes to director/ filmmaker Mr. Takashi Yamazaki, whose experience with animation and visual effects is quite evident in his work of turning a popular manga into a touching film.

This movie is about togetherness, the value of family, love and the greatness of believing in your future even when things are not going right. It is about the subtle comedy that happens to the budding writer as he pursues his dream and makes little slips on the way. It is also about a young kid finding a home when he doesn’t have one. It is a movie that brings tears of joy.

The Tokyo of the yester years as shot on film seems amazingly real. This is not about the Japan of today. It is about the Japan that was. Nostalgia for a world that was so warmly humane; hardworking yet not hurried. This movie deserves a wider audience across borders in this age of the great tug-of-war between modernity and sweet nostalgia.

The veteran actors and actresses in the movie are undoubtedly superb in their performance. The owner of the automobile repair shop, Mr. Norifumi Suzuki (played by Shinichi Tsutsumi) and his comical tantrums; his wife Mrs. Tomoe Suzuki (Hiroko Yakushimaru), the perfectly caring Japanese wife, coldly reserved but extremely loving; Ms. Hiromi Ishizaki (played by none other than Koyuki of The Last Samurai fame!), her moments of anxiety, unsure ness and reticence of a woman in love; and, Mr. Ryunosuke Chagawa (Hidetaka Yoshioka) the writer aspiring for the Akutagawa Ryunosuke literary prize, in his touching and almost theatrical despair and agony.

Special praise goes to the apprentice, the young and simply beautiful Ms. Mutsuko Hoshino (Maki Horikita). She walks in beauty … one shade the more, one ray the less … (courtesy poet genius Lord Byron). Her first appearance at the mechanic’s household, her hesitance in saying her old fashioned, ordinary name aloud as self-introduction; her oldie colloquial Japanese (Aomori dialect of northern Japan) and village bumpkinish, childlike, innocent demeanor, her reception by the Suzuki’s and her reactions to their behavior is brilliant acting. The sense of wonder and surprise in experiencing city life for the first time is visible in her eyes. She has such a lovely baby face (you can praise the makeup artist for that if you like) in the movie that it was a pain to look at the semi-clad photographs that appeared of their own accord on the screen while searching the internet for more information on her. I am sorry I did not recognize her as the same person in the movie. May be actresses/ actors are highly talented people with multiple personality disorder! (laugh!) Forget the hashed metaphor. No offence meant! A star actress of the future if she keeps her head on her shoulders. She could also be cool with tomboyish appearances. You must have realized by now that I am smitten by the character she plays in the movie. She is a wonderful elder sister to Ippei. The Suzuki family deserves attention for the way they fit Mutsuko into their household as one of their own.

The high point of the movie is the scene in which the shy and stuttering Chagawa confesses his love for Hiromi and proposes to her on Christmas eve with an empty box containing an imaginary engagement ring that he could not yet afford. Hiromi’s response is dramatic as she puts on the non-existent ring with elaborate effort on her ring finger. Touché!

The thoroughly loveable parts are played by the two kids Master Ippei Suzuki (Kazuki Koshimizu), the mechanic’s son and Master Junnosuke Furuyuki (Kenta Suga) the abandoned boy. They are both matchless and I am not sure who the better actor of the two is. Both of them deserve high praise and a bear hug for their roles. Hats off! Thumbs up! Atama ga sagarimasu!

This movie has a sequel that is as good as the first part.

You can check out the plot summary on ‘encylolibraria’ Wikipedia online. It is a pretty good one but I would mildly suggest you see the real movie before that.

Thanks to my Indian friend Anubhuti who introduced it to me.


  1. "natsukashii" was the key element in the success of this film. the strange thing is that even the generation that came after the showa period felt naustalgic after seeing it. naustaligia towards something they never personally experienced...
    オトナ帝国の逆襲was an interesting spin to sanchome and the world of naustalgia it created. it uestions the 'white' image we hold to anything that feel naustalgic.

  2. This is a superb review. Unfortunately, this movie is not available in India - which means I cannot watch it. A pity! I am also hoping that none of the B grade "Bollywood" directors should get hold of the DVD or watch the film and get "inspired."

  3. Anubhuti,
    Thank you for your wonderful comment. Natsukashii ne! My own home town has changed beyond recognition in these few years that I have been woefully out of touch, so much so that I felt like Urashima Taro when I went back. Natsukashii is the perfect word in Japanese which I often translate as sweet nostalgia although I think it can never be fully translated into another language. It is very natural that not only people who miss that era, but people of the present feel 'natsukashii' about that movie too. It is human nature to need a sense of belonging and emotional security. This is nothing new as so many psychologists have said it before. People born in the Heisei period have been brought up with mobile phones and emails but have very few good friends who understand each other well. Sounds too much like Robin Sharma? Well, I can not help it (Smile)! It is also one of the reasons why Korean movies and television dramas became such a hit in Japan. Korea is about 20 years behind Japan economically. So there are elements in Korean culture that is missing in present day Japan. Especially human relationships are a lot different. Concept of 天井型社会 in Japan and 地上型社会 in Korea as propounded by a Korean professor and announcer of the Japanese language. That is why most of the young people in Japan avoid arguments and quarrels with friends at all costs and in case there is one, they could easily split up. Now this is getting complicated so more on this later. Please write more about オトナ帝国の逆襲 and 'white' image when you have time. I am very interested.

  4. Roshmi,
    I do know about the difficulty of getting a Japanese movie in India. I am sorry you could not get hold of the movie there.