34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Japanese Cinema Classic,
This review is from: Humanity & Paper Balloons [DVD]  (DVD)
Yamanaka has always been something of a legend in Japanese cinema: young radical film-maker of the 1930s, sent to Manchuria never to return and so, unlike Kurosawa, Ozu & Mizoguchi et al, he wasn't able to achieve maturity & a reputation in the post war era. Worse still, most of his several highly regarded films were destroyed in the war, only two survive. Humanity & Paper Balloons is basically a social realist drama about the inhabitants of a lower class neighbourhood exacting a 'comic' revenge on the gangsters and businessmen who oppress them. Obviously the film is a leftist allegory of sorts, relating to fascistic Japanese capitalism in the 1930s. Although downbeat, the film is not at all heavy handed or dour, it's beautifully directed and acted, comparable in ironic tone to Renoir perhaps. The poignancy in the film comes from an impoverished samurai couple in the neighbourhood who try to maintain their dignity with tragic results. This is a brilliant DVD edition in the excellent Eureka 'Masters of Cinema' series: a transfer from restored Toho original, new subtitles, a few extras and a comprehensive booklet with essays by well known critics including Tony Rayns. As usual with DVD and CD booklets the print is needlessly small & headache-inducing (ok I probably need glasses but still...). Overall, a thoroughly recommended DVD of a fine film. Let's hope they next release Yamanaka's other surviving gem, Million Ryo Pot.