3.16.2010

Good Morning : 4 of 5

I had never heard of this 1959 Japanese film (my knowledge of Japanese cinema is mostly limited to monster movies!), but since my pals Matt & Kumiko know my taste pretty well, they loaned me this DVD, sure that I would enjoy it, and of course I did! Good Morning (or Ohayou) is a wonderful film on many levels, simple enough to be funny and entertaining on the surface, and yet it contains some interesting commentary on society, Japanese culture, and humanity in general. The action (if you can call it that) takes place in a small neighborhood where the houses are so close together that neighbors can simply talk to either other through open windows and doorways. The movie begins by establishing quite a few characters (mostly Japanese stereotypes like the gossiping wives and drunk businessmen, but these characters are loved and never ridiculed), but eventually focuses mostly on two brothers who cutely dress alike and begin a rebellious phase (mostly brought about by their demand for a TV). The boys are fed up with small talk (traditional greetings, talking about the weather) and decide to stop talking for a few days! The fact that they refuse to say "good morning" to the neighbors starts a round of gossiping, and it's fascinating to watch relationships start to break down all because of misunderstandings caused by the simple lack of politeness. One of the characters is a translator who is kind of in love with the boys' sister, and he becomes the voice of wisdom and morality with lines like "meaningless things are easy to say" and that small talk "acts as a lubricant in this world". Although I enjoy finding deep meaning in this kind of movie, Good Morning is definitely not "highbrow" cinema - actually, there are more fart jokes in this movie than any other film I can remember (even the classic husband farting followed by the wife entering the room and asking "Did you call me?")! Along with the characters and plot, I also loved the soundtrack and wonderful camera angles that enhanced the narrow feel of the tiny streets, yet gave them a sense of unique beauty as well. I had a wonderful time watching this movie, and I'd love to enjoy more Japanese films in this style!