|Hitoshi and the three women in his life: the geisha, the bar hostess, and the executive secretary (Irresponsible Era of Japan © 1962 Toho Co., Ltd)|
Synopsis (courtesy Japan Society):
The Crazy Cats comic jazz band and their featured singer Hitoshi Ueki did not invent the local genre of the "salaryman" comedy but they were its ubiquitous face in the 1960s. Some of the first big stars of the new medium of television, they brought standing-room-only audiences to a cinema in decline. This film established Ueki's comic persona as a salaryman who would goof off at work and yet somehow always come out ahead, every so often bursting into one of his well-known Japanese folk-inflected songs while dancing something like the twist. The first in a series of "Irresponsible" films whose comic songs formed the soundtrack of Japan's high economic growth.
Hitoshi Taira (Hitoshi Ueki) is quite possibly the most irresponsible man in the world. He may like to thing of himself as an "average" guy, but he's a smooth operator if ever there was one. This master of scamming takes advantage of high-level corporate machinations to promote himself and his own agenda, although he never does any real harm to anyone. Along the way he manages to help a geisha finance a new car and a bar hostess to open her own establishment, and to romance an executive secretary.
The film has a number of songs sung by Hitoshi and a couple of dance routines. The 50+ year old comedy travels well over the years and across cultures. All-in-all, Irresponsible Era of Japan is solidly entertaining and well-worth seeing.
3 out of 4 stars; recommended
Print courtesy of National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
This screening of Irresponsible Era of Japan is part of the 2016 Globus Film Series Japan Sings! The Japanese Musical Film.