Record of a Tenement Gentleman (Yasujiro Ozu, 1947, Japan)

Record of a Tenement Gentleman is Yasujiro Ozu's first post-war film. Ozu had been held for half a year in a British POW camp near Singapore, where he had been stationed. Ozu was under intense pressure to make the film and supposedly wrote the script in just twelve days. For any other director, Record of a Tenement Gentleman (the true translation of the title should be: "A Who's Who of the Tenements") would be a major work; for Ozu, it is a project that has been largely forgotten in the wake of his other major works of the 1950s and 1960s.

The film tells the story of three residents of a poor district of Tokyo that has been subject to severe bombing raids - Tashiro (Chishu Ryu), Tamekichi (Reikichi Kawamura), and O-tane (Choko Ida). Tashiro returns one day with a boy named Kohei (Hohi Aoki), who claims to have been separated from his father. Here the story begins to focus primarily on O-tane, who at first dislikes the boy. She tries once to abandon him along the beach, but he persistently follows. Eventually, she grows to love Kohei and treat him as her son. 


The film is exploring an ambiguous tale - as we are unsure of the status of this boy. It seems to be a reflection of the post-war era. There is a neorealistic aspect of the film, as Ozu shows the devastation underwrought by the bombing. Though very moving, the film is one of great beauty and restraint. We feel the emotions in the faces of the characters, especially the young boy Kohei, who has very few lines in the film but expresses so much. Additionally, there are comic moments in the film that make it somehow more watchable, such as a recurring gag of the boy wetting his mattress. 


8/10

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