Port of Flowers (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
December 28, 2014 by Dennis Amith
“Port of Flowers” is one of the two films that Kinoshita Keisuke directed that year. The film is upbeat, humorous, captivating and quite enjoyable! A wonderful addition to the “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II”!
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TITLE: Port of Flowers (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II)
YEAR OF FILM: 1943
DURATION: 82 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural, Japanese with English subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection
RELEASED: December 16, 2014
Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita
Story by Kazuo Kikuta
Script by Yoshiro Tsuji
Music by Sakari Abe
Cinematography by Hiroyuki Kusuda
Art Direction by Isamu Motoki
Eitaro Ozawa as Shuzo
Ken Uehara as Tomekichi
Mitsuko Mito as Oharu
Chieko Higashiyama as Okano
Chishu Ryu as Nobadama
Eijiro Tono as Hayashida
The sweet but naive denizens of a charming port town are hoodwinked by a couple of con men at the outset of World War II. But the hustlers’ plan backfires when they come down with severe cases of conscience. Keisuke Kinoshita’s directorial debut is a breezy, warmhearted, and often very funny crowd-pleaser that’s a testament to the filmmaker’s faith in people.
Before legendary and prolific Japanese filmmaker Keisuke Kinoshita directed the widely acclaimed films “Twenty-Four Eyes”, “Immortal Love”, “The Ballad of Narayama”, to name a few, it took the filmmaker some blood, sweat and tears to become one.
Becoming a fan of cinema at the age of eight and doing all that he could to learn about movies (without university education) and having been drafted into war in 1940, life would change for Kinoshita when he got out of the military and pursued a job at Shochiku. And by 1943, he would get his first big break directing films during World War II. A time when cinema was closely monitored by the government and were to be propagandistic.
While many are enamored by the cinema master who excelled in all genres that he took on, many of Kinoshita’s earlier work has not been seen until now.
“Port of Flowers” (1943), “The Living Magoroku” (1943), “Jubiliation Street” (1944), “Army” (1944) and “Morning for the Osone Family” (1946) will be released by the Criterion Collection as part of its Eclipse Series (#41) DVD set titled “Kinoshita and World War II”.
The first film I will review from the DVD set is “Port of Flowers” (Hana saku minato), the only comedy Kinoshita made during the war.
“Port of Flowers” introduces us to those who live in a port town, wanting to see business prosper, they receive a telegram that the son of one of their former longtime locals is coming to visit.
The locals are hoping to impress the son in hopes he has his father’s drive and hopefully bring people to the port town and make the area more prosperous.
But the locals are not aware that the son Shuzo (portrayed by Eitaro Ozawa) is actually a con man who wants to steal money from the locals and leave. But to make things complicated, another man named Tomekichi (portrayed by Ken Uehara) pretends to be the son as well. Shuzo immediately tells the locals they are brothers.
The men hatch a plan to issue (fake) shares as families and those living in the port town want to see a shipyard built and it was the original dream of their deceased father.
But the longer both Shuzo and Tomekichi stay in the port town, they realize how kind and grateful the people are and how they welcomed the men with open arms. And with Japan going to war against the United States, the men start to realize their responsibility as Japanese and to the people.
Will they be able to pull off their plan of stealing from the people?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Port of Flowers” is presented in black and white (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio). Considering the film is 70-years-old, while some frames of the film had suffered damage overtime, and features white/black specks, they are not the type that hurts your viewing of the film. The film is probably one of the better looking films in the “Kinoshita and World War II” DVD set.
The film is presented in Japanese monaural with English subtitles. There is slight hiss but similar to the picture quality, “Port of Flowers” is possibly the best in terms of audio quality compared to the other films in the set.
Eclipse Series releases do not come with special features but included in the insert is a background on Kinoshita and the information about the film and Kinoshita’s entrance to Shochiku making war films.
Prior to watching “Port of Flowers”, I thought about how American World War II films were back in the 1940’s and in some way, expected the bravado and even propagandist tone the films would have with the Japanese war films. Especially since it was an earlier Kinoshita film and that the films were under the scrutiny of the Japanese government, you expect to see the other side of the Japanese perspective and ideology in “Port of Flowers”.
For the first hour, you realize that the film is more about the characters and less about the war. Will these two con men pull of the ultimate scam?
And you start to see how each men find it difficult because the plan of buying shares to build a shipyard proved to be popular among the locals and all are united to go as far to put their life savings in making it happen.
Throw in characters that you care about (and the con men eventually start to care about) and also a bit of a conundrum when the deceased man’s wife and daughter arrive, not knowing that he had two sons.
Suffice to say, the con men are put into a major predicament but they have the choice to steal the money and leave or help the people of the port town. And then, World War II begins and everyone’s perspective changes.
While the film is more upbeat than any of the other four films in the “Kinoshita and World War II” DVD set. It’s one of the more enjoyable and easily accessible films because it relies on humor and you are left wondering if the con men will pull off the major crime or will they change when they hear about the importance of a shipyard during a time of war.
“Port of Flowers” is one of the two films that Kinoshita made in 1943 and it’s a wonderful inclusion in the “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II”.
If you love Japanese cinema, not only is this film recommended for viewing but the DVD set is worth owning for its wonderful five films featuring Keisuke Kinoshita’s earlier work!
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