The Neighbor's Wife and Mine (Madamu to nyobo)

Japan's first successful talking picture, The Neighbor's Wife and Mine made appropriate use of the newly developed sound-on-film technology that previously had been exploited merely as a new gimmick. Since all sound was recorded during shooting, acting and musical accompaniment had to be perfectly synchronized in any given take or the entire scene had to be re-shot.

The film's subject lends itself to a natural use of sound. A playwright is distracted from his work by the din of a jazz band practicing next door. He goes to complain, but is totally disarmed by the charming lady of the house. The entire film plays on the influence of sound (or noise, as the protagonist would have it): blaring horns, crying children, and squalling cats all intrude on domestic harmony in this charming comedy.

The film is also a fascinating demonstration of the growing importance of Western influences and values to the Japanese. American jazz, speed, modern French painting, Western dress are treated positively if comically, but nothing quite prepares one for the closing duet of reconciled husband and wife singing “My Blue Heaven” on their Sunday outing with the children.

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