Carmen Comes Home (1951), Japan's first color film, will kick of Japan Society's new Monthly Classics film series this Friday, September 4th at 7:00 PM. It's a most charming and delightful comedy.
Hideko Takamine stars as Kin, a rural girl who ran away from home to Tokyo, where she dances under the stage name Lily Carmen. When the theater where she performs is closing for six days for remodeling, she returns to her hometown, accompanied by her friend and fellow dancer Akemi Maya (Toshiko Kobayashi), who has just broken up with her boyfriend . Carmen's sister Yuki (Yuko Mochizuki), who is married and has a young son, is thrilled that she is returning. Less enthusiastic is her father, a widower and simple rancher who tends horses and cows. He is rather ashamed of his daughter for what she has chosen to do with her life. especially her revealing outfits.
Carmen fancies herself an artist, but she and Akemi seem to really be little more than dime-a-dozen cabaret dancers. Their presence has a major impact on the village, ultimately one that is positive in most ways.
Takamine is incandescent in the role. She made a sequel entitled Carmen Falls in Love (1952), which was also directed by Kinoshita. She is also known for her starring roles in Ozu's Floating Clouds (1955) and Miko Naruse's When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960), both of which are available from Criterion.
Carmen Comes Home, with its gentle take on the influence of the American culture on Japan in the post WWII period, is one of director Kinoshita's most beloved films. He is perhaps best known in the West for Twenty-Four Eyes (1954) and Ballad of Narayama (1958), again both available from Criterion.
The film's rural setting, rolling green fields with nearby Mount Asama dominating the skyline, is beautifully depicted by the color cinematography. So are the costumes, particularly those of Carmen and Akemi.
Carmen Comes Home would be an important film to see if only because of its place as Japan's first color movie. But it most deserves to be seen because it's so damn wonderfully entertaining.
AsianCineFest rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended.