Tsurujiro is a shinnai singer and his stage partner Tsuruhachi accompanies his narrative ballads on the samisen, a three-stringed instrument. Tsurujiro is in love with Tsuruhachi and the lovely young woman also feels great affection for the irascible singer. But pride and the small disagreements of daily life mean that the two never really manage to hook up. When Tsuruhachi marries a generous admirer, the two artists go their separate ways. They never find their way back to each other, even when Tsuruhachi’s husband campaigns to bring them together … ‘Very little happens in my films, and they end without conclusion … like life.’ In Tsuruhachi and Tsurujiro, director Mikio Naruse bathes his stars Kazuo Hasegawa and Isuzu Yamada in radiant light, although it does not fight with the gloomy tone of this melodramatic love story. The overall brightness benefits from Japan’s residential architecture, with its white, sliding walls, as well as from the duo’s performances under spotlights, with the audience lights also on full. In scenes shot in natural summer light, reflections from the water of a lake cast a halo around the protagonists, familiar to us from MGM films.
by Mikio Naruse
with Kazuo Hasegawa, Misuzu Yamada, Kamatari Fujiwara