Why, asks the headline in Nikkan Gendai (Aug 27), are tear-jerker movies, in which the male or female lead expires, enjoying a boom in Japan these days? The evening tabloid cynically refers to these as “Go ahead and cry movies.”
Visiting to the domestic film corner at a video rental shop, the reporter finds such gems as “Zo no Senaka,” in which male lead Koji Yakusho is diagnosed with lung cancer and given six months to live. Then there’s “Life -- Tengoku de Kimi ni Aetara,” based on the true tragic story of a wind surfer and starring Takao Osawa. In “Last Love,” jazz musician Masakazu Tamura dies of stomach cancer. One can also see Satoshi Tsumabuki croak in “Namida Sousou.”
Leading ladies expire dramatically in films like “Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru,” starring Aoi Miyazaki and “Closed Note” with Yuko Takeuchi, among others.
The above are just the tip of a fairly large iceberg.
Veteran film critic Yukichi Shinada says the phenomenon, of lovely ladies or gallant youths dying on the screen, goes far back in film history. “Having a good cry lets people feel refreshed,” he explains, pointing out that film producers know adapting maudlin scenes can be relied upon to attract audiences.
The latest “die-and-cry” boom seems to have been set off by the huge success of the 2004 Toho production “Sekai no Chushin de, Ai wo Sakebu,” which starred Takao Osawa and Masami Nagasawa, who dies of leukemia. Its English title was “Socrates in Love,” but it was also referred to by its Japanese title, which translates as “Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World.” The story was based on the best-selling novel by Kyoichi Katayama.
Author and critic Shinya Gaku notes that in mainstream fiction, it’s an iron rule to avoid killing off the story’s main protagonist, since the reader is unable to project what will happen after the story’s conclusion. (Although a few novelists, such as Naoya Shiga and Yukio Mishima, succeeded in disregarding this convention, ending their works on a gloomy note.)
“The reason for the boom in movies where the protagonist dies is due to the difficulty in getting Japanese to ponder the lingering aftereffects or suggestions after they’ve watched the film,” Gaku tells Nikkan Gendai.
“Even though people have come to distrust politics, they don’t raise their voices and protest to their government. I guess one can conclude that people are fleeing from reality, and the awareness that ‘I don’t want to think about difficult things, I simply want to let loose with my emotions and have a good cry’' is spreading.”
During the postwar occupation years, the Allied occupiers considered a number of strategies to redesign Japan. This called for a redirection of Japanese social attitudes and awareness through strong emphasis on promoting cinema, professional sports and sex. This came to be known as the “3S policy,” taken from the first letters for “screen, sport and sex.”
If people would rather shed tears at the movies than get mad at their government, it would appear that the 3S policy is still alive and well, Nikkan Gendai remarks.© Japan Today