Suzaki Paradise: Red Light District
(Suzaki paradaisu: Akashingo)
Michiyo Aratama, Tatsuya Mihashi, Yukiko Todoroki, Izumi Ashikawa,
A down-on-their-luck young couple settles on the edge of Tokyo’s red-light district in this major rediscovery, a “radiant masterwork of Japanese cinematic melodramas” (Tokyo Filmex). “How long are you going to keep me in this flimsy kimono?” demands the woman of her depressed, jobless man, while he reminds her of her past—and possible future. “If you cross that bridge [to the red-light district], you’ll be back to your old self again.” Some habits die hard, though; hoping to flirt her way out of poverty, the woman sets her sights on a well-off neighbor, while the man sets his sights on finding work, no matter how demeaning. Like Mikio Naruse or Kenji Mizoguchi, director Yuzo Kawashima chose the red-light district as a setting; unlike in those other filmmakers’ works, however, here “no one feels terrible about it” (Donald Richie). Whether fallen, falling, or barely keeping steady, Kawashima’s characters are merely trying to survive amidst the ruins; “we all have to live,” says one, “until we die.” This poetic, highly sympathetic look at the choices people make to get by is anchored by the performances of Michiyo Aratama and Tatsuya Mihashi as the drifting, hopeless couple.
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