Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Lovable Loser

One meets many fools in a lifetime. Some are memorable and stories of their exploits are told.

In the realm of fiction fools have played a role since ancient times, and as technology advanced so did the ways to spread such stories. A major classic series of films in Japan about a fool were the Tora-san films. The first box set from Animeigo is this week's title recommendation which I have just added to my Recommended Japanese Live Action Cinema web page.
Tora-san: Collectors Set 1 (films 1-4)
Director: Yamada Yōji (1-2) Morisaki Azuma (3) Kobayashi Shun-ichi (4)
Screenplay: Yamada Yōji and Morisaki Azuma (1) Yamada Yōji, Morisaki Azuma and Kobayashi Shun-ichi (2) Yamada Yōji, Kobayashi Shun-ichi and Miyazaki Akira (3) Yamada Yōji and Miyazaki Akira (4)
The Tora-san movies, original title: Otoko wa tsurai yo (男はつらいよ, "It's tough being a man"), were a major institution with 48 films made between 1969 and 1995. This box set is the first four films, two made in 1969 and two in 1970. Each film involves Tora-san's old neighborhood of Shibamata in eastern Tokyo where he returns to at some point in the film. In the first film it is after 20 years, having run away as a child. Each visit has Tora-san causing some sort of a problem, usually due to his good intentions, for his family and neighbors. Tora-san causes problems for them, but great amusement for us. The problems often result in him hitting the road; he makes a living selling shoddy goods, doing fortune telling and any other petty scam that comes his way. The films are great lowbrow comedy with a delightful loser making his way in the world. The series ended in 1995 when Atsumi Kiyoshi, who played Tora-san in all of the pictures, passed away.
Order Tora-san: Collectors Set 1 from The Right Stuf

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