Foreign Film Friday -Good Morning (1959)

SUMMARY

In post WWII Japan, families live in small community planned housing. The men take the train in to work, if they are lucky enough to have jobs. In this community, the wives and mothers spend their days, bossing their children, preparing meals and gossiping about each other. Families are making ends meet, but barely.

The children (all of who are boys) band together for their walks to school, and make upĀ  little challenges for fun. They also congregate at a neighbor’s house to watch television when they can get away with it.

Two of the boys, who happen to be brothers demand that their parents buy them a television, but they are refused. An argument follows about who talks too much, children or adults. So the boys Minoru and Isamu make a vow of silence between them as an act of rebellion against their parents’ refusal to purchase a television. This leads to further misunderstandings among the gossiping neighbors who already believe the boys’ mother is angry with them over some missing money. Meanwhile, the boys’ aunt has a crush on their kind English tutor and contrives reasons to show up on his doorstep.

MY THOUGHTS

Have you ever watched a film and come away wondering what in the world you think about it? That’s exactly how I feel after watching Good Morning. Billed as a Japanese comedy, it does have some humor, but is more like a family drama. It is also an interesting look at a slice of Japanese life in the 1950’s. I can’t say I liked this film, but neither do I dislike it.

One thing I appreciate about foreign films is how they make the world seem much smaller. Though every culture has different customs, language, food and dress, I’m always surprised by how much people are really the same at heart. They have many of the same desires and motivations. With Good Morning, for once, when watching a foreign film, I felt how very foreign it is.

I struggled to relate to what I saw onscreen and had a hard time understanding what was happening some times. It took me almost the entire length of the film to understand that the boys were playing some kind of farting game. I didn’t quite understand the housing arrangements. The film begins with a misunderstanding among the women about financial dues that they all pay to an elected representative among them. These dues go missing. But I never quite understood what they are for and who they owe them to. I kept wondering if they were some kind of neighborhood association fee? Although, these details really don’t matter in the story, it utterly distracted me.

To be honest, I probably would not have finished this film, if not for the presence of the younger brother. I was not fond of the way the movie portrayed the boys rebellion just to get a television their parents can not afford. In the oldest boy, the initial tantrum throwing and the following stubborn, sullen silence was very irritating. But in the character of the young roly-poly little boy who idolizes his older brother, it is too darn cute. Those chubby cheeks and hero worship make for an endearing character.

Supposedly the purpose of this film is meant to highlight how we talk about surface, inconsequential things, but never really discuss the things that matter. I don’t know if this theme was lost in translation, but I never felt that message was made clear.

Overall, I finished Good Morning finding it an oddity amongst the foreign films I’ve seen. Even days later, I still don’t know quite what to make of it. But I do appreciate the exposure it has given me to a culture in a specific time of history. That’s as much as I can say for it.

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