Tuesday, April 24, 2007

April 24th Log

1937, Sadao Yamanaka, Japan
1st Viewing, DVD

Made one year prior to his tragic death, Sadao Yamanaka’s 1937 masterpiece Humanity and Paper Balloons remains just one of three surviving films he has made (despite completing 27 in total). Humanity and Paper Balloons marked Yamanaka’s final film and it stands today among the most groundbreaking and important films in the history of Japanese cinema. One of the key aspects of the film is the way in which Yamanaka details the connection between environment and people. This is expressed through the related opening and closing sequences in which we find the residents within the quarters (both scenes are centered around a suicide). Yamanaka presents the world within the gates in contrast to that outside. Humanity and Paper Balloons is a film that takes a conventional narrative structure and approach, while going against conventional clichés and ideas. The ensemble performances are wonderful by the entire cast. Each actor works perfectly alongside Yamanaka’s minimalist style, in which the most complex emotions are expressed with a subtle touch through gestures and hidden feelings. Yamanaka was a close friend to Yasujiro Ozu and the similarities between the two are evident in style and techniques. Like Ozu, Yamanaka uses minimal approach and indirectly details the context of narrative or emotion through a nearly absent plot. Humanity and Paper Balloons is a somber film that will remain with you. Even after 70 years, the film remains as powerful and timeless today. Sadly Yamanaka was a tragedy of war just one year after the films completion. Japanese cinema lost a great filmmaker at the earliest peak of his artistry, but this film remains a celebrated masterwork and one of the great achievements in film history.

>> Here is a clip of the opening sequences from Humanity and Paper Balloons:


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